Pentecost Blog 17
PASTOR CLAY SCHMIT
Paul wrote two letters to Timothy that are contained in the New Testament. Timothy was Paul’s young protege in ministry and mission. The letters were written during a time when strange ideas about Jesus began to surface. These came to be known as heresies, but at the time, they were simply cases of people trying to make sense of the message of Christ. Some could not get their minds around the idea that Jesus and the Holy Spirit could be part of God, since they believed in One God, not three. Some could not imagine that God’s grace in Christ could be completely unearned. Surely, the believer has to do something to buy or win God’s favor. Paul told Timothy to hold the line on the good teaching about the faith and reject the false teachings.
Do we still have such heresies today? We do, but we tend to refer to them as different religions. The Muslims and Mormons all believe in the Jesus as a prophet, even the Messiah. But, they don’t buy the idea that Jesus died for our sins. I am not too concerned that either of these faiths will take over our region. But, there is one little idea that can trap believers today because it aligns with a common, human way of thinking.
I’ve met perfectly faithful Christians who get this wrong. It is the idea that we can do nothing to earn or win our salvation. We all know that you get what you pay for. There is no such thing as a free lunch. So, how could there be such a thing as free, unearned grace? If someone commits a serious sin, they may want to ask: What should I do to get in good with God? Should I say ten Hail Marys? Should I give money to the church? Should I do community service?
Well, all of those are good things to do and might be worthwhile spiritual commitments. But, none of them help to persuade God that we are worthy to be loved. God is already persuaded to love and forgive us. As a response to God’s free grace, doing those good things would be a great and joyful way to show our gratitude for what God in Christ has done for us.
This is what sets the Christian faith apart from other religions (and heresies). It makes no human sense; but God’s ways are not our ways and God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Paul tells us to hold the line to this teaching: God gave himself through Jesus, who died to save us from all our sins. There is nothing you can do to increase God’s love for you. All you can do is show your gratitude through loving your neighbors, and by being joyful and generous. I pray that you don’t fall for the ‘fake news’ about Jesus. There is still plenty of it around. Hold the line, dear friends, and let the world know the eternal truth that Jesus saves us from our sins.
Pastor Clay Schmit