Beware the Sham

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Daily Reformation, 1 Peter 2:11-25

From the Reformer

The best religion, the most fervent devotion without Christ is plain idolatry. It has been considered a holy act when the monks in their cells meditate upon God and His works, and in a religious frenzy kneel down to pray and to weep for joy. Yet Paul calls it simply idolatry. Every religion which worships God in ignorance or neglect of His Word and will is idolatry.

They may think about God, Christ, and heavenly things, but they do it after their own fashion and not after the Word of God. They have an idea that their clothing, their mode of living, and their conduct are holy and pleasing to Christ. They not only expect to pacify Christ by the strictness of their life, but also expect to be rewarded by Him for their good deeds. Hence their best “spiritual” thoughts are wicked thoughts. Any worship of God, any religion without Christ is idolatry. In Christ alone is God well pleased.

I have said before that the works of the flesh are manifest. But idolatry puts on such a good front and acts so spiritual that the sham of it is recognized only by true believers.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

He abstained from passions to the point of frigidity. He was an honorable person, spoken well of by all. He obeyed road laws with an exactitude that upset other motorists. He built houses for the poor, stocked the local food pantry, and did countless other charitable acts. He never said an unpleasant word about another. He was a committed churchman. As far as anyone knew, his sins were trifling. Yet he had no relationship with God, who remained an abstract thought to him, instilled by his parents and a parade of pastors.

The goal of many churches is too often simply to create “good people.” But the objective of God is to make you his friend. (John 15:15) After this holy relationship is established, holy living will ensue. The friend of God will do what the Spirit wills.

Be certain of this, however: holy living will not create the holy relationship. Be careful that this does not happen to you: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” (Matt 7:22-23)

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

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