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.

No Division

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

In a culture where even our divisions have divisions, Paul’s words to the Corinthians may appear as impossible to you as it did to those who first heard him. Over the course of time, we’ve divided ourselves into neat boxes; handy categories. Either you’re a Republican or a Democrat. You’re either straight or gay. You’re pro-life or you’re pro-choice. You’re either completely for the president and his policies or you’re completely opposed to them. Nice little convenient divisions, wouldn’t you say? And that’s just our politics!

Now consider the church. The place where Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians should ring through most clearly. Yet they don’t seem to. Often it isn’t the Word of God alone that governs our lives or our theology. We frequently believe ourselves wise enough to add to or take away from His word. Or perhaps we think we can climb into the mind of the Lord and ascertain what He “really means” by what He says.

We are a divided people. And that’s no good. Jesus would have us unified. Is Christ divided? Does He say one thing and do another? Does He categorize everyone into nifty little packages and set us aside until He has use for us? No way! The only division Jesus is okay with is the division between the “sheep” and the “goats”; between the redeemed and those who have rejected Him. You are either for Jesus or you are against Him. This division cuts to the heart of the matter.

Those who are in Christ are united. Christ has banded us together from all time and all places. A rag-tag group of sinners made right by the power of His shed blood. And it’s in that very blood we are given unity. In the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we become one. Just as Jesus is one with His Father and we are all one with Jesus, so He makes us one together in His name.

Unity is not agreeing to disagree. Unity is Christ bringing us together in His Word and His Sacraments. Unity is not coexistence. Unity is Christ alone forgiving us all our sins for the sake of His sacrifice on the cross. Unity is not quietly holding grudges. Unity is brothers and sisters in Christ shoulder to shoulder at the altar receiving the goods as only Jesus can provide.

That we would strive toward unity in the Truth revealed to us by God’s own words. That all disputes, especially those in the church, would be seen in the light of His Word. That we would submit to the authority of our Lord. That all brokenness and disunity would be healed and restored by Jesus. O, that He would bring about His perfect unity among us!

Even in the midst of a culture that has lost all desire for unity, Christ and His church shine brightly as He creates unity and keeps us unified in Him. May we be of one mind; Christ’s mind!

Lord Jesus, try as we might, we are unable to bring forth true unity. For this we rely on you. Therefore, unify us in your Word and Truth! Amen.