Roger's Postings

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Luke 10:25-37. What must I do to receive eternal life?? 4/7/10

(25) On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" {26} "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" {27} He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'" {28} "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." {29} But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" {30} In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. {31} A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. {32} So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. {33} But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. {34} He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. {35} The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' {36} "Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" {37} The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

What must I do to inherit eternal life? This is a question that is often asked; either openly or within. Really, what we are often probably looking for, is what is the minimum amount of religious activity that we have to do in order to get to heaven. How little do we have to do in order to be saved? Certainly that seems to be what the teacher of the law had in mind, and I suspect from many people today as well.

Now this is very dangerous thinking for us in the Lutheran Church, because of our very good understanding of ‘justification by grace through faith.’ We can very easily fall into the trap of sitting back and doing very little in so far as living out our Christian faith. God has done all that is necessary for us to be saved in and through Jesus Christ – we simply need to believe it and all is well. We are baptized in order for this faith to be ours. Through confirmation lessons we have got to know the basics. Then as longs as we keep up enough contact with the church so that we don’t lose that faith; that is about it to the Christian life.

So we as Lutherans say to the question, ‘What must I do to receive eternal life?’ Simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

The Lord here however says to this man, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your neighbour as yourself.’ So here, God is telling us that there is nothing half-hearted about the Christian life. To receive eternal life Jesus calls for total commitment to God and neighbour.

Then through the parable of the Good Samaritan our Lord makes it quite clear that there is to be no narrowing this understanding down. In fact, he broadens it out in the widest possible terms. Here he leaves no possible loop-hole for us to think that we can get away without doing very much at all. He calls for love that is way beyond what is socially acceptable and what is normal.

Here Jesus doesn’t simply say, believe in God; Or to love God and leave it at that; because maybe we could have thoughts that we can handle that. But he says, Love the Lord YOUR God with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength: in other words with every single aspect of our lives. No one hour, one day a week Christianity here. No, a little bit here and a little bit there.

No, his call is for us to, every moment of every day, look for opportunity to love God and neighbour. Continually thinking and pondering over the greatness and awesomeness of our Lord. Wanting to always listen to him and follow his ways. Living, acting and working for him and his glory. He is the centre of our life. Everything: everything we think, say and do, are to be all a loving response to our great and awesome God.

That loving response toward God also includes loving our neighbour. And according to this parable, that is everyone that we come into contact with: Not just the person next door and across the road; but our friends, workmates and social and sporting contacts; and even, or perhaps especially, our enemies and those we look down on. Yes, we are neighbour to all the people that God places before us in our thinking and daily life.

Here the call is to love them as we love ourselves. Now that is some call! To think, say and care for the next person as much us we do for ourselves. Particularly considering how self-centred and selfish we too often are. Now if we gave all the people we come into contact with the same thought and affection as we do to ourselves, and sought their absolute good, I am sure we would have a lot different attitude toward our community and the people we come into contact with.

Here Jesus places that call in front of us all, all the time. To live, work, think and act in this way each and every moment of our life. If we seek to receive eternal life, that is what we are called to do. And there is no way we can minimize that fact. Any attempt to short circuit this is to our peril. To love God and neighbour completely is what Jesus is asking of each and every one of us. Nothing less is acceptable.

It is no good us walking away from here now, and saying, ‘She’s right, I belong to the church and I believe in Jesus,’ and then acting as if none of this what we have just heard matters: Thinking that because we are baptized and confess Christ that is all that there is to it.

Every little failure to love God and neighbour fully puts us at odds with God and his will for us. That being the case it should cut our hearts to the bone that we have done so and desire to do so. We should be disgusted with ourselves for time after time failing to consider, far less live out, this call of Jesus. It is even more pitiful that we should so often negate this call of Christ to love completely, by saying that we can’t live up to that standard, so why even try; or that God loves us and accepts us as we are and so it doesn’t matter. Christ still calls us to love as he has loved. Any thing less is rebellion against God.

Now hopefully this has shattered every one of us here and driven us to our knees. It is only as we are brought to the full realization of our failure in this whole area that there is any hope for us. It only as we are brought to comprehend the full extent of not only our inability to live this way, but to even have the desire to, that Jesus Christ and his death on the cross makes any real sense and is of any help to us. It is only as we are brought to see that we are totally helpless and hopeless as a result of not being the people that God intends for us, and that there is no way that we can by our own strength do so; and that the result is to deserve to be sent to Hell for eternity, that we then can call out to the one hope that has been placed before us; Jesus Christ.

As God holds up the mirror of his expectations before us, then we can at last see that we have only one hope. Because of our poor efforts there is no way out for us; no hope of us being able to be acceptable to God. There it is that we are helped to see that Jesus steps in and takes our sin and rebellion against God on himself, and allows God to punish him instead of us. There on the cross he exchanges our sin for his righteousness and assures us of forgiveness, life and salvation.

Now all we can do is cling to Christ and the salvation that is ours in him. Now we see the importance of being baptized into Christ, and our need to daily cling to him. Now we know that we are loved and accepted, not because of who we are or what he have done, but because of Jesus and his death on the cross. Now he and what he has done for us is the most important thing in life for us.

With that knowledge and understanding that he has saved us and now dwells with us, we can go forward in life with confidence and hope. Now that eternal life with God has been extended to us, we can truly seek to "Love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind' ; and, 'Love our neighbour as ourself." As we cling to him as our Lord and Saviour, now we also can set out to do the very best we can in this area: This time with even more zeal than ever before, because now it is not done out of compulsion, but out of a deep desire to please him who has done so much for us. Now we can aim to love fully, not in order to gain salvation, but because this salvation has been given to us. Now, because this way of living is important to him, it is important to us.

Now, also knowing that we are truly loved and forgiven and that we are connected to Christ in our baptism, we know that Christ is with us, to give us the zeal, strength and courage to do so. Yes realizing that there have been and will be times along the way when we will fail to love this way, because of our sinful nature. But now this will drive us back to Christ for forgiveness and the desire and help to do so once again. Now all the while we will seek to love God and others as he has loved us.

Now, as we conclude, there is much for us to think about and ponder on. But also now, we can go from here with the joy, courage and help, to love God and neighbour fully. Because now we know that our failure to do so can only drive us to cling even more closely to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Now he is even more important to us as we live out our life every day. So again to him be all glory and honour now and always as we ‘go now and do this.’ AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

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