What We’ve Earned

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

I have taught a “basics in the Christian faith” class several times a year for the past ten years. We meet together weekly over the course of six weeks for about an hour. Romans 6:23 has become the theme verse for what we do together. In this passage, Paul says it all! He tells us what we’ve earned. He tells us what Jesus has mercifully given. He tells us the whole story in a handful of words. He does this by clarifying God’s two words: Law and Gospel.

In lesson one, we explore how we know there is a God and what we know about God based on what He’s revealed of Himself. We then spend a heavy amount of time discussing what expectations the Lord has for us. It goes something like this. Almighty God has created each of us to be His human creatures. As such, He has a number of expectations for how we will act toward Him and one another. These expectations are written into the fabric of who we are as human beings. When we live up to these expectations, we are doing nothing more or less than being human. When we don’t live up to His requirements, we are proving to be something less than human, namely “broken humans”.

To determine whether or not you are fully human, I’d invite you to take this short quiz. Rate yourself (from 0%-100%) based on how well you live up to the expectations of each of the following categories:
1. Parent/Child
2. Spouse
3. Worker
4. Neighbor
5. Christian

If you’re honest, you did not write down five 100%’s here. We may do well in one area, but isn’t it amazing how others fall short. What’s more, this is nowhere near an exhaustive list!

God’s expectation for His human creatures is perfection at all times in all categories. How’s that working out for you? Not well for me!

So what have all my deeds earned me? Paul holds nothing back in his answer: the wages of sin is death. As I turn in my time card to the Lord for all that I’ve done over the course of my life, He hands me the paycheck I’ve duly earned. Stamped in stark crimson, the word that says it all DEATH. My thoughts, words, and deeds have brought about my demise. So have yours.

Thanks be to God, Paul doesn’t leave us hanging here. Rather than leave us with the bad news that death and damnation await us because of our brokenness, we are heralded with the best news that the Lord Himself gifts us instead of death, eternal life through Jesus Christ!

This Good News is for you! The Lord has decided in favor of you. That although you’ve earned death for yourself, He chooses mercy for you. He chooses to love you. Out of His own goodness, He chooses to gift you with His tremendous blessings. The gift of God for you is eternal life through Jesus Christ! You will never hear better news!

Dear Jesus, thank you for the gift of choosing me for eternal life. I am sorry for all my sins and shortcomings. Strengthen me in your love to do better. Keep me in the one true faith. Amen.

Lord, Save Me!

But when [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me”. (Matthew 14:30)

Sinking swiftly below his problems, Peter tried everything to overcome. His job wasn’t enough to maintain the life he desired, so he maxed out more than a few credit cards. Peter didn’t want to worry his wife, so he’d fake a smile and say it was all okay. Secretly he began to resent everything. His boss who didn’t pay him enough. His family who required so much of what little he made. The cost of milk that had clearly gone up in the past several months. Before he could manage to cap it off, his anger and bitterness overtook him. He was utterly unpleasant.

Then he lost his job. And then he lost it. He saw no hope. He refused to talk to his wife. She could no longer tolerate his demeanor and suggested separation. He retorted, “why don’t we just call it quits?” So they did. The house, Peter’s pride and joy, was foreclosed.

Peter hated it all. Nothing was going the way he wanted and there was nothing he could do. He began masking the emotions with alcohol, always needing more to keep the feelings at bay.

Peter was sinking and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. So he cried out in a last ditch effort to One who could. “Lord, save me!” Simple words spoken by a man drowning as a direct result of his rash decision to join Jesus on a walk across (not around, but across) the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a terrible storm. For awhile, Peter walked on top of water. Stop and imagine that for a moment! With waves crashing all around him, rain falling, thunder clapping, lightning striking, wind howling and his eyes on his Lord only, Peter walked on water! But then he realized where he was! He was in the middle of a raging storm and what he was doing wasn’t remotely possible. He removed his eyes from Jesus. He looked at the eleven fearful men back in the boat. He saw the storm. He became afraid. Overwhelmed. This was impossible.

Just as he thought it, he proved himself right. It isn’t possible to stand on top of water. It isn’t possible to face the raging storms in our lives on our own. Oh, sure we can put on a good show for awhile, but the more we try, the more we struggle and strive, the deeper under water we find ourselves.

The only hope for both of our Peters was for Jesus to reach out His hand, take hold of them, and drag them back to the safety of the boat. “Lord, save me!”

How often we try to tread the waters. How often we forget that Jesus is standing mere inches in front of us. Standing on top of the things overwhelming us, ready to reach out His nail-marked hand and save us. “Lord, save me!” A holy refrain from the lips of His faithful. May it be also upon your lips.

Lord, save me! Amen.