Daily Reform, Day 64
Galatians 2:2 & Matthew 5:17-20
From the Reformer
Among the Jews Paul allowed Law and circumcision to stand for the time being. So did all the apostles. Nevertheless Paul held fast to the liberty of the Gospel. On one occasion he said to the Jews: “Through this man (Christ) is preached unto you forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39). Always remembering the weak, Paul did not insist that they break at once with the Law.
Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
I don’t feel like much of a Christian today. So if I do not feel like a Christian, am I a Christian? Well, why don’t I feel like a Christian today? Because I don’t feel like I measure up. I do not feel like I measure up to my own code of conduct, let alone God’s law. I am not doing the things I know I should be doing. As a result, I get irritated with myself and soon become annoyed with others. Then I even get impatient with my dogs. You can always tell when I am on the verge of a meltdown when I get upset with my dogs. And it is all because I am not measuring up and therefore do not feel like much of a Christian.
So perhaps a better question to ask may be, am I a Christian only if I feel like one? Sometimes I do not feel like I am much of a husband or father or man. But I still am all of those things, whether I feel like it or not. So what is it that determines whether or not I am a Christian, if it is not my feelings? Reliance upon moral code and religious ritual is all well and good — if you can keep the code and ritual inside and out. Of course, no one does this. For example, the Ten Commandments state that one may not commit adultery without ruining one’s relationship with God (Ex 20:14). As a result of such law breaking, two things went into place: the sacrificial system for making atonement for sins and a relaxation of the moral code (Mat 19:7). This sin alone is pandemic, as Jesus makes clear. Everyone commits adultery at some time or another (Mat 5:28), if they are honest with themselves (and many are not, which would be another reason to not feel like much of a Christian).
We cannot keep either our own moral code or God’s laws and so, there will be days when we just do not feel too good about ourselves — since every once in a while it should be clear that we are not good (Rom 3:10). This comes as a great shock to many Christians, since the reason they go to church and try to lead moral lives is to be good people. But at the end of the investigation, God knows that no one is good, “no, not one.” That means heaven will be filled with nothing but angels — and not even all of them — unless God does something to correct this problem.
A big problem it is too. There are not enough sheep in the world to atone for even my sins, let alone yours too. God’s solution then is not to amend the law as Moses did or even to cancel it. Instead he sent his Son to fulfill the law. This gracious act allows a sinner to be a friend of God. It is only through genuine faith in God’s grace that I am justified to God (Eph 2:8-9). No matter how I feel about myself today.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers