10-26-14 Called to Be Free: Justified By Faith

And in contrast to last week’s Update, this past Sunday was boiling hot, and it’ll drop down to freezing temperatures by this weekend.  God is having way too much fun with His weather, lemme tell ya...

But remember that this Friday is a very special day.  Not only is it Michael Uhler’s birthday, but it’s also Reformation Day -- the anniversary of priest Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses on the “bulletin board” of the outer door of the church building in Wittenberg, way back in 1517.  Technically, all he was trying to do was to argue that the Catholic Church was doing things wrong and that they really ought to stop it, but it blossomed into a whole, public debate thing that ended up launching the Protestant Reformation.  Waldo and Wycliffe and Hus had all argued many of the same things earlier, Gutenberg’s presses made Luther’s arguments distributable to the general public, Calvin and Simons both took Luther’s concerns and ran even farther with them, but everything really did all come together into a crucial focal point on that Wednesday morning (ironically, even the Catholic Church later agreed with many of his Theses).  So I encourage you to stop and take some time to pray and praise God that He never let His truth become completely obscured, even during the darkest moments of history (like that pesky Renaissance).  The Reformation wasn’t really a Lutheran thing, or a Calvinist thing, or a Mennonite thing -- it was a God thing.

We talked a little about that in our message this week, continuing our walk through Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia.  See, Paul was contending with a church that had become enamored with a “new and improved” Gospel that had come from “clever” teachers -- so he wanted to distance himself as much as possible from all of those “clever” guys by reiterating at length that the Gospel he preached didn’t come from men -- it came from God.  Even back then, people were being drawn to different versions of things, “tweaked” interpretations of the truth that made them feel holier because they’d accomplished something.  They’d earned it.  

Even today, that’s something we can too often struggle with.  Churchy Christians can love God, but then look down on their fellow man because other people just seem... less holy, less worth their righteous time and effort.  Or we can think that, because we’ve sinned this week (or because we’ve sinned so much this week), God must not like us as much any more.  Or we can assume that we have to “get our act together” before we could even approach God (since otherwise, who are we to presume to stand in the presence of God?).  Or, like Peter, we can just let ourselves slide into old habits when surrounded by people who pressure us into sliding into those old habits, and we forget to live like the saved-by-grace Christians that we know that we should be.  In short, all of these presuppose the priority of the human over the grace of the Divine.

Here’s a little test:  Have you ever changed your lifestyle to look more “Christian” (or at least more moral) because you didn’t want to feel judged by the Christians around you?  Now, perhaps you should have changed your lifestyle -- maybe what you were doing wasn’t so God-honoring -- but your rationale had nothing to do with God, so your decisions had nothing to do with worship.  Instead, you cleaned up your act to please men, not God... and that route is fraught with peril.

Stop and take a moment to evaluate where you’re at today, and if the Gospel you live by on a day-to-day basis really is the one that God gave you through His Word.  Is your priority on your actions, or on God’s gracious love (toward you, and toward all of those who are so easy for you to judge)?

Read Ephesians 2:8-10 and check where your actions lie on the timeline that Paul gave us.  Do you do nothing for Christ?  Do you do what you do in order to be saved?  Do you do what you do to stay saved?  Do you do what you do to impress those around you?  Or do you do what you do because you have been saved, and God’s joy and love and grace just overflow out of you and into the rest of the world?