Saturday, February 28, 2015

Smoky Mountain Reflections #156

Smoky Mountain Reflections #156

            How does your view of Christ affect your application of who He is and what he came to do for you and your life? A simple biblical answer would be that Christ came into human flesh, suffered, died, rose from the dead to redeem all people and will come again to gather His resurrected saints to Himself in His new heavens and earth for all eternity. While this is true and should be preached and taught at every opportunity, how does one apply it to daily life?

            Daily drowning the old Adam by remembering our baptism and thanking God for this gift is a very good place to start, but then we have to get through the rest of the day. Keeping Jesus first in all that we say and do is easier said than done. Doing everything to the glory of God is and will be a constant struggle with that drowned old Adam. I would like to propose that as we struggle, staggering from ditch to ditch, struggling just to get up with God’s help, only to fall again, we still press on. We are not fatalists, but we are realistic and we acknowledge that as sinners we will often disappoint and hurt each other. We should however still strive every day, with God’s help, to disappoint and hurt a little less…..maybe even love God and our neighbor in the way He would have us do it. 

            I think that the ways in which we tend to apply Jesus and His gifts can be characterized in several ways. This month, let’s look at five of them with the help of metaphors. The first four can be seen as misapplications, while the final one may be a helpful way to understand and apply Jesus’ love to our lives. As I play a little with these metaphors, I would like to thank my classmate Pastor Bryan Wolfmeuller of Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora Colorado who used most of these on his Table Talk Radio program and planted the seeds for this article. The metaphors I’ll use for commonly held views of Jesus are those of a dating service, a bank, a school, a drug store, and a courtroom.

So let’s play with these metaphors a little, shall we?

Dating service: Many see their relationship with Jesus as being similar to one between a boyfriend and girlfriend. The songs these people like to sing have a sort of longing to see Him and touch Him and feel His presence in some way. Their prayers express the same sort of things. When they talk about Jesus they do not talk about what He did for them on the cross or what He does for them in Word and Sacrament, but instead about how He makes them feel. Consequently, these individuals see their church as a place where they can get connected with their boyfriend and snuggle a little bit. Do not misunderstand me; I am not saying that as the bride of Christ we should not seek to be nurtured and comforted by Christ who is our bridegroom, using the means he has instituted, I am simply saying that focusing on the good feeling misses the point of the love and forgivness which provides that feeling.       

Bank: Some see their relationship with Jesus as being similar to one between a banker and an account holder. These people like to talk about how they and their church have stored up in the “bank of good works” all that is needed. These sinners feel comfort that in God’s eyes they are each “good persons”. When all of the good and bad are measured on the scale, they say, the good will outweigh the bad or at least they hope it will, and the pearly gates will be opened wide. The Roman Catholic Church will still today sell you an indulgence to make a withdrawal from this “bank”! But if we look at the Bible, in James 2:10, we find that to break even one of God’s laws is to break them all. So in essence, we are all bankrupt in God’s sight. The scale of righteousness does not measure good and bad on a curve; it only has two possible readings: 100% guilty and condemned, or, through Christ, 100% redeemed.

School: At this “campus”, well-meaning Christians claim to be able to prove that God exists. While every area of scientific endeavor provides good information to shed light on God and His presence, it all boils down to this: without the Holy Spirt making the clear connection between God and His creation, the sinner sees only what he wants to see. While any well-educated Christian can make a rock-solid, rhetorically sound argument for God and His existence in any field of study, only the Holy Spirit can crack the stone of a hardened heart so that faith can take root and grow.      

Drug Store: This view often takes root when a church stops talking about sin, the cross, and forgiveness, and turns Jesus into what is essentially a vitamin, putting all of their focus on how being a Christian will make one wiser, happier, healthier, and wealthier. Besides ignoring Christ’s primary purpose for coming into human flesh and dwelling among us, namely, our salvation, it cheapens His example of how we should live and turns it into a recipe for success instead of a principal by which to live. But the worst thing about this approach is that it sets people up for failure; when being a Christian does not produce what the false prophets promise, they do not give up on the false prophet…they give up on God.

Courtroom: While all metaphors have their weaknesses, this one can still do a very good job of properly showing how Christ’s gift of salvation applies to our lives. We are all guilty and sitting in the defendant’s seat, as the prosecuting attorney (Satan) correctly proclaims our guilt. However, our defense attorney (the Holy Spirit), calls Christ to the stand and asks Him to speak in our defense. Christ says to the Father on the throne of righteousness (the Judge in this courtroom scene): “Justice has been served in this case; what the accuser says is true on all accounts, but he left out one detail: I have already suffered and died for those crimes. Therefore, that defendant is mine; a redeemed child of the triune God.” Amen.

Have a blessed February full of candy hearts and friendly smiles!
In Christ,

Pastor Portier        

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