Fighting Dragons

Daily Reformation, Revelation 12:3-11

From the Reformer

With the believers in Christ, them who have their righteousness in him, there should follow in this life on earth the fruits of upright living, in obedience to God. These fruits constitute the good works acceptable to God, which, being works of faith and wrought in Christ, will be rewarded in the life to come. But Paul has in mind the individuals who, rejecting faith in Christ, regard their self-directed lives, their humanly-wrought works, which conform to the Law, as righteousness availing in the sight of God. His reference is to them who so trust, though wholly ignorant of Christ, for whose sake, without any merit on our part, righteousness is imputed to us by God. The only condition is we must believe in Christ; for he became man, died for our sins and rose from the dead, for the very purpose of liberating us from our sins and granting us his resurrection and life. Toward the heavenly life we should tend, in our life here walking in harmony with it; as Paul says in conclusion: “Our citizenship is in heaven [not earthly and not confined to this temporal life only]; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

If we have no knowledge, no consciousness, of this fact, it matters not how beautiful and praiseworthy our human, earthly righteousness may be, it is merely a hindrance and an injury. For flesh and blood cannot help relying on its own righteousness and arrogantly boasting in this strain: “We are better, more honorable, more godly, than others. We Jews are the people of God and keep his Law.” Even Christians are not wholly free from the pernicious influence of human holiness. They ever seek to bring their own works and merits before God. I know for myself what pains are inflicted by this godless wisdom, this figment of righteousness, and what effort must be made before the serpent’s head is bruised.

—Martin Luther, Assorted Sermons, “Enemies of the Cross of Christ”

Pulling It Together

“If I just try harder, I can overcome this sin.” The well-meaning believer is tempted to do battle with such dragons. Do not rely on your earthly struggle to turn out well. Rely instead on the heavenly battle that is already won. Rest; take comfort in the victory of Christ over his tomb—for that tomb is your own. You will not be laid to rest in some cemetery one day, since you have already been buried in baptism with Christ. Imagine instead, that when your days on earth are over, that you will be laid to rest in the arms of Jesus. Just so, you will rise as he rose. The battle has been fought and the victory won for you. Do not cease striving after righteousness but realize it is just that: striving. If you rely on your striving it will only bring you strife. Do not be discouraged that your effort against the dragon is too often frustrating. Your inability to be good is one reason God fought the battle for you. Despite your failings, your accuser has been thrown down because of Christ’s victory over sin and death. You may only rely upon him to know true peace of conscience—even when dragons are flying near.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers

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