There is another Way
Romans 4:1-8, 13-17
† In Jesus Name †
As we realize the sin we commit, may we also realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from the sin, even as we come to depend on His presence in our lives!
In the midst of the passage from Romans this morning, our translation puts a few of the words inside of parenthesis. They are no less part of scripture, and I would call your attention to them this morning…
They are these words, “The only way to avoid breaking the law, is to have no law to break!”
That seems simple. No law, no breaking the law.
Even though they are scripture, they present a problem for us. They are a literary device, not what we would call “pure gospel”. A literary device, sort of like sarcasm or irony.
You see, as a literary device, the idea of getting rid of God’s law is predetermined to fail.
For one thing, it’s impossible.
For another… well you will see.
We can’t avoid it – because of Adam
Paul’s literary device fails, simply because we can’t avoid sin. Last week we saw why, sin entered the world through Adam, and it was passed on, as vicious as any virus or genetic anomaly to every person who was a product of human conception.
All we have to do is look at what our lives produce, and we know that the Apostle Paul was right when he said that, “the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it.”
That seems like a bit of a challenge, doesn’t it? You try to obey God’s law, and you can’t!
Some will say the law is impossible, that we should just ignore God’s law, and do whatever we want. Others give up, and others pretend that they have never sinned, or that their sin isn’t as evil as the sins of those they complain about.
Sin, we’ve all done it, we’ve all earned the wrath of God that are the wages for that sin. Ignorance of the law doesn’t matter, and we can’t simply make God’s law disappear, or claim that it isn’t for us…
You can’t avoid the law, it exists, which is why we need what Abraham discovered….. the discovery that David says brings great joy.
Rejoice, we were cleared of breaking it.
Hear David’s words again,
7 “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. 8 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord as cleared of sin.”
This promise is for all people, without care for their age, their ethnicity, where they lived or even the sin they committed. This wondrous act of God, clearing us of sin, putting the sin out of sight is amazing!
Trusting God, depending on Him to keep a promise that goes back to the garden of Eden is what we are talking about, it is how we have a “right relationship” with God.
Since the beginning this is God’s plan, since God covered Adam and Eve’s sin with the skins of animals, since God saw Abraham’s trust, first in the promise of Isaac’s birth, and then as he went to sacrifice Isaac, knowing God’s promise was deeper than he could understand. Hebrew’s tells us that he counted that through Isaac God would provide him more descendants than the sand on the shore, or stars in the sky.
That trust, that dependence on God saw Abraham counted as a friend, just as David, whose sins far outweighed his predecessor King Saul, God describes as a man after his own heart. Paul gets this as well,
20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 1 Cor. 5:20-21
This right relationship we share – another way of describing God’s work in creating it is what Paul told the church in Corinth – His way of changing us from enemies into His friends.
Let that sink in.
Like Abraham, being counted as righteous means you are counted as a friend of God.
That’s what a right relationship with God is, which explains why David uses this word joy to describe our sin being put away.
During Lent, this is what we focus upon, this work of God we need, this love of God that proclaims we are cleansed, healed, forgiven, loved, by the Creator of the universe, who created us to be His friend.
And though sin tried to break that relationship, our God had already prepared for that, even before creation, for His intent has always been the same as it was in the garden,
to walk with us… He as our God, we as His people, his children, His friends.
And the cross, it is our way to avoid the damage of sin. And it works. So be at peace and trust in God who loves you more than anything.
Discussion Thought of the Day:
22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Romans 7:22-25, 8:1-4 (NLT)
4 Don’t say, “That’s the way I am—it’s my character.” It’s your lack of character. Esto vir!—Be a man!
125 Since faith brings the Holy Spirit and produces a new life in our hearts, it must also produce spiritual impulses in our hearts. What these impulses are, the prophet shows when he says (Jer. 31:33), “I will put my law upon their hearts.” After we have been justified and regenerated by faith, therefore, we begin to fear and love God, to pray and expect help from him, to thank and praise him, and to submit to him in our afflictions. Then we also begin to love our neighbor because our hearts have spiritual and holy impulses.
“Pastor, I can’t help it, I am just a poor, poor sinner.”
That response is a conditioned response, it is what pastors and priests have taught people to say. It is the response to sin of a generation where the sacraments have been diminished. Where absolution is not really heard and understood in the heart and the mind.
But what it does pick up on, is the law that convicts it, the passages that say, “no one is good”, “all have sinned”, and a focus that never is taken off of the doctrine of justification. People have heard all about, they know what it is, well as far as we can’t save ourselves, we are dead in sin and God delivers us. But they don’t hear the so what – how this absolution, how this declaration that we are righteous changes our lives.
With on the “what”, people (and I include pastors and priests as people – we are really) will make the what the end of the story. We still sin, God still forgives. We aren’t perfect, we’re just forgiven, and people will turn that into permission to keep on sinning.
We believe that works can’t save us, we know that nothing we do merits salvation, and we stop (and encourage people to stop ) there. That’s enough, trust in God and you will be saved people believe.
When we allow this, o what a great disserve we do! It would be like telling a convict the charges against them are overturned, but not unlocking their cell door, not removing the handcuffs, nor giving them clothes that identified them as something other. We have to share the complete gospel, all of the mercy, reveal to them the wonder of His love.
They’ve been not only declared righteous, but the Holy Spirit dwells in them, making them holy. sanctifying them, empowering them to live the baptized, repentant (transformed ) life. Our people don’t need to live in secret, hiding behind their sin or their propensity to sin. They can be encouraged to live in the freedom that Christ has given them.
That is what the third quote, from the Lutheran Confessions, is telling us. That the Spirit creating life in our hearts, is creating the impulses to do that which isn’t sin, impulses to love God, impulses to love our neighbor, impulses to trust Him more and more, and because we trust Him we are driven to reach our and serve those around us, meeting needs from physical to emotional to spiritual.
This is how Paul, distraught over his sin, finally comes to the realization (and needed to remember it daily) that justified, we can set aside that sin, and follow the Spirit. Does that mean we won’t sin on occasion? No, but it changes what drives us, what impulses we want to follow -and as time goes by, as we explore the depth of God’s love revealed in Christ, those impulses bring us great joy.
This is what St. Josemaria talks about when he challenges us to be men, not those who hide behind the weakness of character, who justify sin by saying that is who they are.
It is a challenge to live life as God intended, walking with Him, focused on Him, but even when we fail, He has, He is the answer. The Christian life is knowing this and living in light of it.
Heavenly Father, have mercy on us, your children!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 177-178). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.Apology of the Augsburg Confession Article IV
Crying Out Loud
† IHS †
We are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father!”
A Lightening Strike….
a great quote!
A few weeks ago, at 3:40 in the morning, a loud thunderclap woke up people from here to Irvine, and all the way up to Santa Monica.
I know, for immediately afterward, my phone was going off with facebook messages about it from those two places, and everywhere in between. People were posting about the children and their dogs flying into my friend’s bedrooms, diving under their covers, trembling and scared.
I figured it would eventually make for a great Pastor Parker Parable, and with our readings today, it does.
How many of you remember that happening, either the invasion of your bedroom, or invading your parents’ bedroom, after a particularly loud thunderclap, or a frightening strike of lightning?
Well, Christmas is somewhat like that thunderclap.
For it sends us racing to the Father’s arms, the place we belong, not just when we are anxious or scared.
Because of Jesus, it is the place we belong….
For we’ve been given the right to cry out loud, to use the name of the Lord, to call out to Him in prayer… and in praise.
That’s the point of Christmas, of the name of Jesus which means Yahweh Saves, and His being Immanuel – God with us,
It is the point of Paul in our 2nd reading as well…
This What the Right Time is about!
When the time was right Paul says, when the moment was perfect, when the plan came together, and every aspect that God had promised, revealed in the Old Covenant and the words of the prophets,, when that time happened.
It was Christmas… Mary gave birth to God and Man, one being, yet… beyond our ability to comprehend.
He was born within the very covenant relationship, yet fully representing both sides, the Sovereign Lord, and the man God would bind himself to, for eternity. I love how one theologian-pastor put it:
Christianity is not a religion of fear but of trust and of love for the Father who loves us. Both these crucial affirmations speak to us of the sending forth and reception of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen One which makes us sons in Christ, the Only-Begotten Son, and places us in a filial relationship with God, a relationship of deep trust, like that of children; a filial relationship like that of Jesus, even though its origin and quality are different. Jesus is the eternal Son of God who took flesh; we instead become sons in him, in time, through faith and through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation…. He destined us in love to be his [adopted] sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:4).[i]
What amazing words, we who had chosen to rebel against God, who sold ourselves into slavery by choosing to sin rather than obey God, are welcomed as children, His children!
No matter that threat of the storm, we are invited to life in Christ, He’s opened the door, welcomes to live as His very own children.
Knowing we will be the children who struggle, who get frightened by storms and thunderclaps.
It will take us a while to learn to run to Him, but that is what children need to do.
The Blessing of being the Trinity’s family!
That is why I love to talk about baptism, that time when God makes it all right. He joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection, It is that point where the promise of God’s work is made clear, as the Holy Spirit is given to us, the Spirit sent into our hearts to convince us that we are the children of God. Another Christian leader put it this way:
“With Baptism we become children of God in his only—begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Rising from the waters of the Baptismal font, every Christian hears again the voice that was once heard on the banks of the Jordan River: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22). From this comes the understanding that one has been brought into association with the beloved Son, becoming a child of adoption (cf. Gal 4:4–7) and a brother or sister of Christ. In this way the eternal plan of the Father for each person is realized in history: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).
You are God’s son, you are God’s daughter,
We are the children of God, given the ability to cry out loud for our Abba, Father. Indeed we are expected to, whether the cry is the cry for comfort and protection; or whether it is the cry, when we realize we have come home on that holy day when Christ brings us home.
The pastor went on….
It is the Holy Spirit who constitutes the baptized as Children of God and members of Christ’s Body. St. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth of this fact: “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13), so that the apostle can say to the lay faithful: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:27); “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Gal 4:6; cf. Rom 8:15–16).[ii]”
That is the Holy Spirit’s job, to bring us into the family, to bring make us one with Christ, To bring us to faith. He makes it happen, as we become aware of our part in the body of Christ.
That is what Paul is talking about – why Christmas and being a Christian is like a lightning storm’s ear shattering thunderclap – for we know where our comfort, our peace, our family belongs.. in the presence of our dear heavenly Father, for there, there is peace.
Even as we look forward to the day when we cry our loud – “Abba Father!” and we hear in reply, “welcome home, my dear children!”
[i] Benedict XVI. (2013). General Audiences of Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
[ii] John Paul II. (1988). Christifideles Laici. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Hebrews 11:22-12:4 (NLT)
258 What a beautiful prayer for you to say frequently, that one of our good friend praying for a priest whom hatred for religion imprisoned: “My God, comfort him, since it is for you he suffers persecution. How many suffer, because they serve you!” What a source of joy the Communion of Saints is! (1)
I read the 11th chapter of Hebrews today, from Abraham through the prophets, from judges to kings and apostles, and I wonder how they achieved the trust they had, the level of faith that sustained them in times of dire need. I consider the saints since, the brilliant ones like Chrysotom, Augustine, and Melancthon, Walther and Benedict XVI. I think of those who’ve changed the world like Luther or Craenmer or St. Josemaria Escriva or Billy Graham, I think of those who withstood tyranny and proclaimed Christ, who would die rather than worship a false God. I think of those like Francis and Mother Theresa and the many unknown who serve those whose health is poor, who live in darkness. Whose names are unmentioned, but their work changes lives. I think of King David and Bede, Beethoven and Mozart; Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, John Michael Talbot, Michael Card, and hear the wondrous praise they have composed.
And I wonder, do I belong in their company?
My head tells me I do, because of the theology I know and preach… that Christ came to have mercy on sinners like me. This is what my soul counts on, more than anything.
Yet in my heart I wonder, will I simply be in the last row in heaven? In the folding chair, brought in at the last moment for those of us standing around, not quite sure I belong there?
After all, I haven’t the wisdom, or the skill, and I especially don’t have the patience of those who endured before me. I haven’t done anything noteworthy, never gotten a million hit, heck a thousand hit blog post, or wrote a song picked up by some great singer. Never served communion to more than 150, or baptized 5 people in a day.
Sometimes I wonder if I will be the last one picked, like in a sandlot baseball game. God shrugs – yeah – I will take him, I guess I need a millionth string holder for the place kicker.
In my mind I would love to be listed there, one of those who did something that was an amazing demonstration of my trust of God, even more a demonstration of how much God is worthy of all trust. How much God will sustain His people, through the worst of storms, through martyrdoms, even as they forgive the sins of those who oppress them.
But I am not, just a simple guy, trying to shepherd simple people. People who still struggle with sin, people who still on occasional doubt. People who learn about God and haev to re-learn about His love. People who still struggle with wanting to do things their own way, seek their own pleasure.
First 40 is amazing to spend some time thinking about;
40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
Without us. Without you and I.
God has something in mind… that we will join them.
These heroes of the church, are waiting, by God’s command, for us…..
And because of this great crowd, bearing witness of Christ, who’ve demonstrated to us the faithfulness of God, surround us, we know we can do as they did. Set everything else aside, just drop it there, and look to Jesus. He is why we have faith, and why our faith will be sustained. He will finish what He began in us. . That is why we will be part of the cloud, it is why they are part of the cloud…..
they are sinners just as we are, and they are saints like us because He is.
We do that, we find we are part of the team, those who know that are life is hid in Christ. And that we are part of that great cloud of Witnesses…
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1081-1084). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15 (NJB)
23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24 (NLT)
929 Don’t forget that we will be more convincing the more convinced we are. (1)
I’ve had a task to do, that I am not looking forward to handling. Simply put, there are things we are called to do as believers that are impossible.
This is one of those.
The temptation is to really on our own wisdom, our own strength. To force the issue, to pretend we are God, that all things can be fixed, with the “if only” caveat. That caveat justifies failure, it allows us to walk away without having to admit the failure. It allows us to walk away without feeling disappointment.
That caveat is the seed of our defeat, just like a prenuptial agreement is a danger sign in a marriage, because it leaves open the room for failure, and nearly guarantees it will happen. It puts the success or failure somewhere besides making us responsible for it, and therefore leaves out the one crucial ingredient for success. The one ingredient? Oh, you want to know what it is?
Jesus makes it known in the 2nd quote above. If you believe, if you trust in God, if you know His heart well enough to base your life on it, even risk your life on it.
To which the man cries out a Kyrie Eleison – Lord have mercy – help me when I cannot trust.
Depend on Him. That sounds simple, but it isn’t. We have to know His desire, we have to understand the effort God will put into keeping his promises. We have to realize the depth of His love. We have to know it – deeply in order to trust in it, even as this man had to trust that Jesus could heal his son.
It isn’t easy – but we can pray, we can communicate our need for something to booster our faith, we can admit we need His help – even to trust.
But when we do, patience comes naturally, peace flows, the impossible seems be have cracks of God’s probability shine through. We realize we can wait for it to happen, we realize that God will make all things work for good, we realize the power of mercy and forgiveness.
And we trust in His presence to make all the difference, and it does.
For He has promised – and He is faithful.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3775-3776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too. 40 And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles. Matthew 5:38-41 (TEV)
806 You were very sorry to hear that most un-Christian comment, “Forgive your enemies: you can’t imagine how it angers them!” You could not keep quiet, and you replied calmly, “I don’t want to cheapen love by humiliating my neighbour. I forgive, because I love, and I am hungry to imitate the Master.” (1)
Yesterday I wrote about the fact that forgiveness is not learned, it is not a discipline, it is simply the result of love.
Today, I cam across the quote from Escriva, and I again was amazed at the thought. Simply because I’ve heard this said before, I’ve even probably used something like it along the way. Just show them you are bigger than them, and forgive them. ( I apologize to any I’ve said that too. I’ve also heard it said this way, you don’t have to like forgiving them, you just have to obey God and do it.
Or perhaps the most common excuse. Forgive them, for it may not benefit them, but it benefits you
Somehow I can’t see Jesus, on the cross, being benefitted by forgiving his captors, or Stephen, being stoned by Paul’s friends, being benefited. Or any of the martyrs over the last 2 millennia, who forgave as they were tortured and died, benefitting from being free of the resentment and anger they felt.
If we forgive because we desire what is beneficial for ourselves, when the hurt and pain come back, then we will be ill-prepared to deal with it. It will again fuel resentment and anger, and thoughts of how to make them pay for the sin will creep back into our hearts
The way to forgive, to bypass revenge is simple – love.
To accept the pain, the hurt, the cost of loving that person. To give that all over to Christ, the one who taught us to pray to the Father to be forgive and to be able to forgive. The one who died for His enemies, because He loved them. The One who frees us, by paying for every debt, every trespass, every pain.
The one we hunger to love, and desire to imitate, because He has loved us…..
Mercy, Love, forgiveness….. on package deal.
May we do so…counting on the Lord’s mercy
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3326-3329). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.’” Luke 4:8 (NLT)
424 Your relatives, colleagues and friends are beginning to notice the change, and realise that it is not a temporary phase, but that you are no longer the same. Don’t worry, carry on! Vivit vero in me Christus—it is now Christ that lives in me —that’s what is happening.(1)
The picture accompanying is this blog is on of the high points of a trip I took a few years ago. My wife and I were wandering around Rome, on a trip that was an incredible gift. As we were, we came across this building, with lots of excavation around it. It was rough, worn, old, and we wondered what it was….
As we rounded the front, we realized it was the Pantheon, a place built and rebuilt for the Roman Cultic worship…. a place were ritual sacrifice was done, a place of martyrdom as well. The Roman Pantheon, perhaps the best kept of all of the ancient buildings of Rome…Re-built early in the 2nd century, it is amazing.
But for nearly 1500 years… it has been something more significant – it has been a church. A place where God is glorified, a place where His peopel have been gathered, and blessed. A place that has over time been redeemed, been blessed, and amazed people for its grandeur, for its arts and craftsmanship, for the history and skill it contains, skill that speaks of something greater… the work of God. The meeting of God and His people to celebrate a love that is beyond measure….for His people to return that love, as they lay their lives down as living sacrifices to Him, giving of themselves to love Him, including loving Him by loving those He’s brought into our lives. That place where other gods demanded their sacrifices, for a longer period of time celebrated that God sacriced Jesus… for us.
This love of His changes us, completes us as we walk with Him. St Josemaria is correct – there is a change in us, even as there was in the use of the Pantheon, We cannot know God’s love and be the same. The Westminster Catechism as it right as well – our purpose in life changes drastically, as we realize who God is, and how He relates to us.
Worship becomes more powerful, as we realize it isn’t a duty, something we must do, but as it becomes a reaction to God sharing everything with us, including His glory. How can we read St. Paul’s words to the church in Colossae and not rejoice?
27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:27-29 (NLT)
This is what life is about, this is the abundant life…
Lord have mercy, and help us to share Who makes us who we are…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1898-1902). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Westminster Larger and Smaller Catechisms; Electronic Edition, Wordsearch
Devotional Thought of the Day::
11 If you come to a town where people do not welcome you or will not listen to you, leave it and shake the dust off your feet. That will be a warning to them!” Mark 6:11 (TEV)
27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” Matthew 13:27-30 (NLT)
9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)
1 Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart. (1)
It seems as winter comes to an end, as we ready to change our clocks tonight, many of us are struggling with relationships. Even relationships that were broken many moons ago.
I’ve probably heard the top verse, about “shaking the dust” fifteen or twenty times in the past month. From pastors and church leaders, to those who come to church maybe once or twice a year. ( One of the conversations was about wiping the dust of a church off their feet – but I think they met the church as as an entire entity.)
I am tempted, in such conversations, to make them pull out a BIble, and look at the context of the passage. But often, in that moment, the pain they are reliving blinds them to that context. WHat would happen, what has happened, is that they selectively hear me, and continue to use the passage, or add me to those who dust has left their feet.
You see this passage isn’t about getting the people who are negative in our life, and doing away with them. It’s not even about pruning our relationship “tree”, cutting off the dead wood. Or getting those who presently won’t listen to the gospel out of our lives and circles, lest they comehow pollute our world, and our relationships. The shaking the dust off their feet was their ignoring the message of Jesus kingdom being established soon, not about our personal pains, oru brokenness, whether by our actions, theirs or a combination and desire for mutually assured destruction.
It’s not even about their rejecting the love of God, as we present it.
It can’t be, for if it were so, then what about the other passages I placed above, about Jesus commanding His servants to leave the weeds side by side until the Harvest, and about God’s desire and will that none perish. This passage about shaking the dust from one’s feet has to be understood in context with it. Could Peter be wrong about the patience of God? Could Jesus’ parable be set aside, if the people are too evil? That we rip them out of our lives, and refuse to share with them the very love of God, because we’ve closed the door?
You might ask about the two disciples in 1 Timothy, that Paul hands over to Satan, or the people in Matthew 18, that a congregation treats like publicans and sinners. Can’t we do that, we ask ourselves, trying to justify our own defenses. The question is, do you really see them, as former brothers and sisters in Christ? Those who have walked away, and only by experiencing the depth of despair that is found in being in bondage to Satan, will they cry out for mercy? Even then, you must ask yourself – if they repent, are you willing to take them back, to forgive them 7 times 70, or as many times as Jesus forgives…you? Are you willing to bring them and the issue before pastors, and event he chruch, in an attempt to reconcile it?
Are you willing to face the pain, embarassment, struggle, in order that reconciliation can happen?
Is it time to shake the dust off our feet? Are we willing that our action will be a testimony, a witness against them, that would see them in Hell? Or can we trust in Chirst, and with Him, blaze a trail of the glory of the gospel, His light that redeems and reconciles and heals? That covers their sins, not with time, but with the blood of Christ that will cleanse them?
Can we work to bring them to the altar of Christ?
Tough questions this day……
Lord, Have Mercy!
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotioal Thought of the Day:
15 I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate. 16 Since what I do is what I don’t want to do, this shows that I agree that the Law is right. 17 So I am not really the one who does this thing; rather it is the sin that lives in me. 18 I know that good does not live in me—that is, in my human nature. For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it. 19 I don’t do the good I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do. 20 If I do what I don’t want to do, this means that I am no longer the one who does it; instead, it is the sin that lives in me. 21 So I find that this law is at work: when I want to do what is good, what is evil is the only choice I have. 22 My inner being delights in the law of God. 23 But I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. 24 What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! This, then, is my condition: on my own I can serve God’s law only with my mind, while my human nature serves the law of sin. Romans 7:15-25 (TEV)
Liz: You’re a monster.
Liz: How can you live with that?
Red: By saving your life. (1)
With my schedule, I don’t get to watch television much, except when I am home sick, or occaisonally something dvr’d.
One of my favorites used to be Boston Legal – wihich surprised me, because I didn’t like any of the primary actors in it. But I was amazed with the brilliance of how they worked together, and how the writers strived to find ways to take the broken charachters and send them hunting, often blindly for some sort of reconciliation, some sort of justice they found, despite themselves. Have to admit, I became impressed with James Spader’s characterization. Enough so, that when the Blacklist came about – I wanted to see it – just to see if he could be a truly evil charachter.
Have to admit – it is the only television show I really watch these days, usually a couple of days later, and always fascinated with the depth of depravity and yet, a quest for some kind of vindication.
There is a blunt acknowledgement of evil, a confession that is there, unaware that there is grace. There is in each primary character – a questioning of the soul. You see it in Liz, as she struggles with the evil of each case, and the questions about her husband. You see it in Red, as he tries to help Liz, but also as he has his moments of solitude, (of course he goes and decides to do what he knows is wrong thereafter) you see it in the director, and in the partner.
There is an acknowledgement of our sinful selves, and attempts made to justify themseives by doing something good or noble or perfectly just. Except they realize, as we do, that the harder we try, the more likely we fail.
That’s perhaps what I like about the show – it strips us, not from the idea that we are not sinners, but from the idea we can justify ourselves. That we can explain away our own shortcomings, our own falures, our own tendency to sin. But it needs to go beyond that.
For although the whole world with all diligence has endeavored to ascertain what God is, what He has in mind and does, yet has she never been able to attain to [the knowledge and understanding of] any of these things. But here we have everything in richest measure; for here in all three articles He has Himself revealed and opened the deepest abyss of his paternal heart and of His pure unutterable love. For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Ghost, by whom to bring us to Himself. (2)
Red sees his own redemption in saving the life of another. I don’t think he means just her physical life either, but the emotional and spiritual life that can be lost in their line of work. (remember what he did before he went rogue) Perhaps by ridding the world with more efficiently of the truly evil, he can help her save her life. He wants to be her savior, her Christ, Even so, he cannot.
Luther sees it differently, noting that God is the one who can do, and has done, what Red so longs to do. He did come – and take on evil, personally as Christ carriest all our sin to the cross. That’s what Paul is talking about as well – who can rescue us from the despair of living in the presence of Evil? Only Christ.
Maybe we don’t see ourselves as the people on the balcklist – people beyond hope. Maybe were the Liz, losing her naivete about the world, about mankind with every episode. Maybe we’re Red, hoping beyond hpoe that we can save the next generation from turning into us.
What we need in each case – is to cry out to Jesus, the One who can save us, and has already provided all the means for our salvaiton, and more importantly, to leave anxiety over walking in evil behind, as we walk with Him.
We cry, “Lord, Have Mercy” and know, and trust.. He has.
(2) The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
Will We Rejoice?
May the grace, that mercy and peace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ bring you such great joy, as you no longer hide your sin, but eagerly confess it and find yourself freed and cleansed!
Will We Know Joy…
I’ll tell you a secret. Dad’s can cry. An example, there are some death scenes in movies, that overwhelm us. Any dad here willing to admit that they cried at the end of Brian’s Song? Or when Luke pulled off his Father’s mask in Star Wars, as Anakin Skywalker died? Or when Spock utters, “I have always been and will always be, your friend…”
Looking at the Psalm for today, of all the movies I have seen, of all the deaths that have been portrayed, I could only think of one… and it almost seems sad, that it comes from a musical….. yeah – a musical. Father’s day… and pastor uses a…. musical… in his sermon?
Yeah – because that story, Les Mis, is an illustration of our psalm.
For the tears there, as they start with death… turn to an incredible joy…as Jean Val Jean prays, and realize the answers to his confession, as he realizes the power of God’s redemption. In this incredible story, of a man whose life at the beginning of the movie, is that of a slave who had run from his punishment. At death, he finds himself in the company of saints…and all his burdens taken away.
No longer one of “les miserable”, but rather, he has become one of the redeemed, one of “les joyeaux” – one of the joyous.
Because of that, it pictures perfectly the lesson of our incredible psalm…
The wasting away of those trapped in sin…
Character after character in the movie, so much like real life, finds themselves drowning in sin. Some wander into it, blissfully unaware of the damage it will do. Others turn to sin out of desperation, like Jean Valjean who steals to provide for his family, or like Fontine, who sells her hair and her body, in order to provide. Others just embrace it, as one embraces hating others, and working for their destruction. In every case, sin sucks us in, deceiving us, promising false hopes, and leaving us broken…
It is so like the words of David, as he talks about the power of sin,
3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
So often, we don’t realize the damage of our own sin, and the weight of the sin of the world that corrupts life, until it is too late. Until life is wasted away, like that which happens in desert – as the heat sucks the water out of our bodies evaporating that which we so need to survive…
The Psalm is clear, the issue isn’t the sin itself, though that is, indeed sin, and we should strive to avoid it. The problem is not dealing with sin, the idea that we can hide it, bury it, justify it, compare it to others, and somehow think God doesn’t notice…
When we bury that sin, when we hide it, protect it from view, we choose to let it rot from ourselves. We would condemn others sins… and yet we are not able to face ours own sin, and therefore we can not face redemption. Some hide their own sin, and they hide from own grace even to go as far as to try an escape dealing with the life of redemption and mercy by ending life…
Truly such is the nature of those miserable, those suffering… unable to face their own sin…
The Turning Point…
“Forgive me all my trespasses and take me to your glory….”
That is the cry of Jean Valjean at the end of the movie, a plea for grace, a grace that had he had struggled with, since a Bishop gave him the silver he stole.
“By the passion and the blood, God has raised you out of darkness!” were the words of the pastor/Bishop that day, much earlier in his life, not long into the movie.
It took most of his life to understand the power of that absolution, that loving forgiveness. He gets it little then, but struggles with sin the rest of the movie, and the impact of it. He will run from who he is…. He will run from his sin a number of times, he will eventually learn to deal with it… and when he does…
He finds joy and peace!
He has arrived at the point where David is at in the psalms,
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
That is of course, what is realized in the end, as Jean Valjean is welcomed into God’s glorious presence, a presence that was there throughout his life, a presence he prayer too, cried to, yet somehow still struggled with – even as we constantly struggle with our sin, and are tempted to bury it, hide it, and attempt to dismiss it. He finally knows joy, He finally is at peace…
We aren’t the only ones who struggle with our sin like Jean Valjean does… Listen to Luther…
Be a sinner and sin boldly,but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness,but… it is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small?
This is not permission to go out and sin more, as many will take this statement. It is a measure of the extent of God’s incredible grace – even more a measure of the depth of God’s love for us. The measure of God’s desire to have us take part of His glory, to revel and rejoice in His love.
There are so many passages in scripture that describe God’s love for His people, when they come to Him. You see it’s not just our joy that is described when sins are forgiven, it is the Father in Heaven’s joy as well… when His children come to Him. There is the story of the prodigal son, and of course revelation… but there is one that is always will be a favorite of mine,
17 The LORD says, “I am making a new earth and new heavens. The events of the past will be completely forgotten. 18 Be glad and rejoice forever in what I create. The new Jerusalem I make will be full of joy! Isaiah 65:17-18 (TEV)
We are joyous – not just because of the joy of being freed from our sin, but because free of those burdens, we find our Father in Heaven just as joyous, the word picture in Hebrew is that we are dancing in that joy…
We don’t have to wait to our closing scene..
For in our baptism we have been freed, we’ve been brought into His glory… even if we can’t see it clearly…yet.
The question maybe isn’t will we rejoice… but when will rejoice…
I would suggest now is the time and here is the place, for the victory feast awaits… AMEN?
- Do We Sin with Boldness? (justifiedandsinner.com)