Have you ever thought about the ramifications of the Church drifting from a main focus on the message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ?
The only other option that presents itself if I am not pointing people to believe in and rely on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is to point people to rely on themselves and their effort to be right with God and have some chance of eternity with him.
But here’s what happens…
If I focus on earning my way into heaven by my personal effort instead of relying on the completed work of Christ, I can easily become a Pharisee. My eyes shift from the cross to another person and I satisfy my longing to be good enough by finding people that are worse than I am. My eyes shift to putting on an outward show that looks really pious and perfect, but I spend little time developing my heart to believe and trust in the Lord. I become what Jesus condemned:
Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! ….28… on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
If I focus on proving the validity of my faith or rely on how well I live the Christian life to assure me of salvation, I leave my peace, comfort and hope up to my imperfect daily performance. What happens is I become like the Pharisees and add rules that God never said to make sure I am “REALLY” being a Christian. I make sure I don’t get close to committing adultery by saying all dancing is wrong. I make sure I don’t get drunk by saying all alcohol is wrong. I load up burdens on people’s shoulders that they can’t bear on their own. I become what Jesus condemned:
Luke 11:46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
If in anyway I lead people to rely on anything or anyone but Jesus for eternal life, I become what Jesus condemned:
Matthew 23:13-14 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
Nicodemus was one of these Pharisees, and I can easily become one too. It’s what leads people to see the church as hypocritical and full of rules and rituals and people who are judgmental.
Jesus taught Nicodemus,
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
When we keep Christ and HIS work at the heart of the Church, the rest begins to fall into place…including our Christian life…the one that pleases Jesus:
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
This is the heart of the Christian church.
Apply: Review the amazing work of Jesus as Martin Luther captured it:
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
What does this mean? I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
This is most certainly true.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for doing what I never could…living a perfect life, dying for the punishment of sin and rising again…so that I can be with you forever. AMEN.