Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Easy Does It??

For most Christians who are grounded in the Biblical theology confessed in the Reformation, we have a distinct awareness that we are incapable of properly keeping God’s Law. Rather than taking a view of God’s Law that it is partly achievable, or that we can in some way satisfy its demands to God’s pleasure, if we only try hard enough—we acknowledge that we utterly fail to keep His Holy Law. Rather than water-down the demands of the law to make it a low-enough-hurdle so that we can jump it—we acknowledge that the demands of God’s Law are far beyond our reach. Lutherans and other Reformation-minded Christians are accustomed to hearing this preached. When we hear Jesus say, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), we know this is unachievable by human effort. When we hear Paul write that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), or “all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (Gal. 3:10), we know that we are under this verdict.

So…if we can’t keep the law, then why bother even trying? This is easily (and perhaps often) our response to such a verdict. “Easy does it…no sense burning yourself out trying to do what can’t be done!” “The Law tells me to love, but I can never love as I should, so why waste the effort?” I can never obey the commandments perfectly, so what’s the use? After all, even St. Paul said that where “sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:20-21). So Paul, anticipating what we will reply, says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:1-4). Paul says that this idea, to go on living in sin and disobedience to the Law, is impossible for us—because of what God has given us in Christ Jesus.

The purpose of this recognition that we can’t keep God’s Law isn’t to move us to inaction and indifference or apathy. It isn’t to give us an easy excuse for disobedience. Rather it is to show us our utter dependency on Christ Jesus for everything. So when we hear the Law as Christians, we will not respond, “Impossible! Easy does it! Don’t expect that from me, you know I can’t!” Instead we will recognize the newness of life that has been graciously given us in our baptism into Christ, and that in Christ we are able to do even more that we thought we were capable of doing.

Because the love of Christ liberates us from servitude under the law which is impossible, and puts us in His service instead. He fulfilled His servitude under the law perfectly, in our place. Now, He, who can and did keep the law lives in us through our Baptism, and enables us to walk in God’s Law. Through Him we can love our neighbor as we never thought possible, we can serve in ways that once seemed beneath our dignity, as Christ humbled Himself voluntarily and became a servant to all (Phil. 2). Through Him we can live and obey, and do so joyfully, knowing that salvation is already our free gift, and that works add nothing to it. But our works can freely be given to our neighbor for their help and benefit. With Christ living in us, we do not live lives of passive indifference, but of active faith that lives and bears fruit! And we will discover that in Christ we can exceed the bounds of what we thought was possible, and how true it is, that “with God, all things are possible!” So…Easy does it? No way!! Let’s take on some challenges together with God!!

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