[This post is my “take” or elaboration on Martin Luther’s tract Concerning Christian Liberty. The content of this tract is going to be my “sermon” for the rest of my life, when counseling women, when speaking, etc.]
Introduction: When we are having a hard time in life, we ask ourselves questions like: How can I be happy?. . . How can I escape this? . . . Where is the exit? . . . How can I have a good marriage? . . . How can I get married? . . . How can I get more money? . . . Why can’t I get more money? . . . Why can’t I get a better job? get promoted? . . . Why aren’t my plans working out?
We also bolster our questions by reviewing our motives: I was going to tithe 20% when my business was successful. . . . I devoted so much of my time to youth ministry hoping that God see my work and bless my business. . . . I have been submitting and submitting, and my husband still hasn’t changed–he’s even worse than before! . . . I went to a Christian college so God could give me a Christian husband, but I’m still not married . . . or my husband has turned away from the Lord anyway. . . I took my kids to church every week so they would trust in God, but they still haven’t and are living reckless lives. . . . I’ve been reading my Bible and praying every day, but I still can’t control how I eat!
In the first case, when we ask why I can’t have what I want or how can I escape the problems I have, we are asking the wrong questions. We’re revolving our thoughts around issues that aren’t in our power to answer, issues or people that we really have no control over.
In the second case, concerning our motives, we reveal that we wanted to earn certain favors from God by our works. Think about it: As Christians, we have come to the point where we agree with God that only by Christ’s work on the cross can we be saved from judgment and have eternal life. Yet, when we start our new life in God, we go right back to trusting in our works for our sanctification. Greek myths have such plainly human-like gods–they are jealous, steal, demand favors, etc. They are gods made by men in man’s image. Yet, even we as believers are guilty of doing this with God when we, for example, 1) feel ourselves more holy and more pleasing to God than other Christians because of our standards, 2) expect God to bless or help us in a certain way because of our “good” works, 3) think that we could be more holy if we worked harder, spent more time in prayer and Bible reading, or sinned less (at least the sins we know about), 4) categorize Christians by their perceived godliness or lack thereof.
Though we may admit to being unable to be good enough to earn or deserve eternal life, we sure want to be able to earn a “rank” in this life, in our sanctification, in our place among other Christians. We often teach that salvation is God’s work, but sanctification is my work with God, it’s not just God’s work. . . . Is it possible? Will God share the glory of my sanctification with me? with anyone? Our human nature runs to be under law; we want to have a measuring stick; we want to be able to earn favors; we want to be able to think ourselves better than others. We seek self-approval or the approval of others. And we think we get God’s approval the same way we get it with others or with ourselves. Without consciously thinking, this is how we operate. And that is why we desperately need to consciously think about this.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free [from the Law]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [being under the Law]. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision [a requriement of the Law], Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision [submits to being under the Law], that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified [in this life and the next] by law; you have fallen from grace. Galatians 5:1-4
Another concept we need to consider carefully is our division of earthly life and eternal life. I used to think, yes, when God considers my acceptance before Himself, He sees Christ’s righteousness. But I never really applied that to how God sees me now and every day of this earthly life.
The truth is, every moment and day of this earthly life, God sees me in Christ. Christ’s perfect life is accounted to me. God sees me as perfect in this life, and He alone will lead me into actually living that; I can’t lead myself into living it.
OK, time to put Vika to sleep. So far, this was mostly me. When we get to Luther, it gets better!
Read Full Post »