Look to Jesus for righteousness
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” St. John 8:31-34
Sometimes humans take religion beyond what God intended for us. They begin to make their own laws and guide God’s people away from the true gospel. This is prevalent in our world today. Christian churches continue to move away from the Word of God. They make up their own gospel.
Sunday past we celebrated Reformation Sunday, a significant day for the Protestant churches. Five hundred and one years ago, Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, posted his controversial “95 Theses” on the chapel door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg, Germany, and ultimately challenged the papal authority. This simple act ignited the Reformation.
The Reformation was really about Jesus. The church experienced a schism because the papal leaders encouraged 16th century Christians to seek God’s favor through monetary means. The church was selling what Jesus had freely given to us through his suffering, death and resurrection.
In the above text Jesus confronted the Jews and told them that faith in him would set them free. His statement infuriated them. They reminded him that they were descendants of Abraham and had never been slaves to anyone.
They felt that because of their affiliation to Abraham, they were protected. God loved Abraham and blessed him. Therefore, the Jews thought they had a bye because of their forefather, Abraham.
The fact that they were Abraham’s descendants did not automatically give them the gift of salvation. God’s blessings did not come to Abraham because of his goodness. Scripture tells us that God made a promise to Abraham, which in human standards, seemed impossible, yet Abraham believed him. Consequently, God credited his faith to him as righteousness.
The people to whom Jesus was speaking were confused. Like the church of the Reformation, they thought Abraham was worthy of his righteousness. They thought it was his payment for being perfect before God. They were wrong. What Abraham received was a gift from God.
Jesus was pointing out to the people that salvation is a gift from God. Scripture tells us that we cannot inherit God’s righteousness by our good works. “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
Believe in Jesus Christ and you will be saved. That is the point that Jesus was making to the people. However, they were consumed by their own self-righteousness. Their own misperception blinded them.
The church leaders of the Reformation era were also consumed by their own self-righteousness and misperception. They refused to believe that God’s favor came to them by grace, not good works. That is the point Luther was making when he posted his “95 Theses” on the Castle Church door.
Unfortunately, the leaders of the 16th century church could not see their own shortcomings. Their behavior was like that of the people in the text. “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Even though some think that they can atone for their sins they cannot.
The price for sin has already been paid. Jesus did that on the cross at Calvary. During Old Testament times, the priest had to first go through the ritual of cleansing himself by sacrificing an animal, then, he sacrificed another animal for the sins of the people. This he did on a yearly basis.
However, God in Jesus came to earth, and he being the perfect sacrifice, offered up himself in our stead for our sins, once. Therefore, the forgiveness that we receive from God is not because of us. It is all because of Jesus.
Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23, “… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Yes, we fall short. That means that even though we may try to work and try to please God through our good works, we will fall short.
That is why we need Jesus. We all fall short because we cannot do a thing to cause God to pour out his grace and mercy upon us. We must look to Jesus for that righteousness. Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas, or telephone: 323-4107; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or Website: www.Nassaulutheranchurch.org.