The Grudge

christ-communion

Daily Reform, Day 145

Galatians 2:18 & Isaiah 43:25

From the Reformer

By the grace of God we know that we are justified through faith in Christ alone. We do not mingle law and grace, faith and works. We keep them far apart. Let every true Christian mark the distinction between law and grace, and mark it well.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

The young parents loaded up their children and traveled to another city a few hours away to visit their grandparents. They had barely set foot in their grandparents’ home, and had just received joyous embraces and kisses, when their parents whisked them back into the car and they traveled home again. Some unthinking words had been exchanged among the adults, the mother took offense, and off she stomped, family in-tow. Worse, harboring a grudge, she would not speak to her father again for many years, despite her father’s attempts to reconcile.

Her refusal to set matters right would have meant an admission that she had overreacted and would need to ask her father’s forgiveness. It took many years, but one day she simply began to speak to her father again, for she had loved him all the while. He acted as though nothing had ever happened between them, for he dearly loved her too.

When I recall this incident, I am reminded of how great the Father’s love is for us, that while we were still sinners, he sent his Son to die for us. (Rom 5:8) How sad it would be if we thought he did not love us because of some past, misspoken word or action. Fear of the consequences of our sin is necessary because it prompts us to correct our behavior, but if prolonged will only keep us separated from the love we desire — and that he so greatly wishes to shower upon us.

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

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Life and Peace

Daily Reform, Day 144

Galatians 2:18 & Romans 8:1-8

From the Reformer

“I have not preached to the end that I build again the things which I destroyed. If I should do so, I would not only be laboring in vain, but I would make myself guilty of a great wrong. By the ministry of the Gospel I have destroyed sin, heaviness of heart, wrath, and death. I have abolished the Law, so that it should not bother your conscience any more. Should I now once again establish the Law, and set up the rule of Moses? This is exactly what I should be doing, if I would urge circumcision and the performance of the Law as necessary unto salvation. Instead of righteousness and life, I would restore sin and death.”

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

The Christian life is meant to be blessed. Though sometimes it begins in this manner, it too often gets derailed. At other times, it does not even begin on the path of blessing.

Many people come to Christ because they are looking for forgiveness and peace of mind. Later, they fall into a lifestyle of law-keeping. They worry that if they do not keep such and such a commandment to the letter, they will be damned. Others begin with the standard of law-keeping, looking to such a false faith as a sort of booster shot that will increase their immunity to sinning. When they discover that, try as they might, they are still sinners, they grow despondent and quit their so-called faith. This should come as no surprise since those who endeavor to live by the flesh instead of by the Spirit cannot please God. (Rom 8:8)

But real faith in Christ is just that: faith in Christ. It is not faith in what you do; that is faith in yourself. It is not a matter of circumcision, or what you eat, or who you eat with, or of giving up some habit that troubles the conscience. These are all things that you do. True faith is trust in what Jesus has done and continues to do for you. He died on the cross to satisfy your debt to the Holy God. In doing so he fulfilled the Law. (Matt 5:17) He did this for you so that you could live in the Spirit where there is life and peace instead of drudgery and despair.

If you began with Christ but have left him for a life of law-keeping, come home to the Prince of Peace. If you started with a religion of law-abiding, turn to the Spirit life immediately. Tell Jesus that you have been trying to do it by yourself — even if you thought you were doing it for him. Thank him for doing it for you. In this alone is the blessing of salvation and thus, life and peace.

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

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God Forbid

Daily Reform, Day 143

Galatians 2:17 & Deuteronomy 9:13-16

From the Reformer

Christ is not the minister of sin, but the Dispenser of righteousness and the Giver of life. Christ is Lord over law, sin and death. All who believe in Him are delivered from law, sin and death.

The Law drives us away from God, but Christ reconciles God unto us, for “He is the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.” Now if the sin of the world is taken away, it is taken away from me. If sin is taken away, the wrath of God and His condemnation are also taken away. Let us practice this blessed conviction.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

If keeping the Law could produce righteousness, why would one need Jesus? For example, any observer of the Law may have thrown this up to Peter. Quit eating with Gentiles! That is unclean and you are breaking the Law! Or perhaps worse, the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem who were troubling the Church of Galatia may be understood to have said, Pete! You cannot be serious in your insistence that our Lord would have you eat with such men as these. Since doing so is a sin, that would make Christ a servant of sin.

So Paul brings it right out into the open by asking the question. “Is Christ then a servant of sin?” Then he answers his own question with pretty strong language. The King James does the best work (in my mind) of phrasing his response. “God forbid!” As in the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “May your kingdom come,” here Paul states the strong negative, “May it never be.” (NAS) God forbid that Jesus would ever be considered a minister of sin.

The Law shows us that we do sin, and industriously so. Jesus’ need to die for our sin shows us the staggering extent of that sin. We are powerless to produce our own salvation by keeping the law, even in simple acts of circumcision or with whom we eat, let alone in not lying or in loving God with our whole hearts. As soon as we succeed at religion, we fail. Fearing his anger, we turn aside from God, trying to ignore his fury at breaking the Ten Commandments. But the awareness of our sins remains and we end up erecting our own version of a golden calf. Indeed, religion is the golden calf!

Try to be worthy of salvation. Do your level best and more and you will still be a sinner. You need Jesus; all you need is Jesus. God forbid you would add another requirement for salvation than his cross.

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

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The Fulfillment

Daily Reform, Day 142

Galatians 2:17 & John 14:25-27

From the Reformer

In conclusion, if the Law is the minister of sin, it is at the same time the minister of wrath and death. As the Law reveals sin it fills a person with the fear of death and condemnation. Eventually the conscience wakes up to the fact that God is angry. If God is angry with you, He will destroy and condemn you forever. Unable to stand the thought of the wrath and judgment of God, many a person commits suicide.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

When one tries to turn the Fulfillment of the Law (Matt 5:17) into a Lawman, he has made Jesus into something he is not. The result is a conscience terrified of peace.

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

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Christ Alone

Daily Reform, Day 141

Galatians 2:17 & 1 John 1:5-10

From the Reformer

All who say that faith alone in Christ does not justify a person, convert Christ into a minister of sin, a teacher of the Law, and a cruel tyrant who requires the impossible. All merit-seekers take Christ for a new lawgiver.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

The overarching doctrine of the New Testament is that God in human flesh came to save sinners and that he did so through his death and resurrection. This triumph over the grave was accomplished by the incarnate God who thus paid the penalty of humans breaking his Law. (Rom 3:20) Time and again Jesus and the apostles insist there is nothing for us to do but believe. (John 11:25-26; Acts 16:31)

To say that something else needs to be added to belief in Christ in order for a person to be justified before God is to call Jesus a liar, for he is faithful and just to forgive us all our sins. (1 John 1:9-10) This was fully accomplished by Jesus and requires no individual worthiness. Jesus is all the merit a sinner needs.

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

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Faith and Healing

Daily Reform, 2 Kings 5:1-14

From the Reformer

When there was a great famine for three years and a half, there were many widows in Israel, whose want of food Elijah was not commanded to relieve, but he was sent to a woman, who belonged to a foreign nation, Zidon. (1Kg 17:9) In like manner, Elisha healed no lepers among his countrymen, but he healed Naaman, a Syrian. (2Kg 5:10)

…we have no right to prescribe any rule to God in disposing his benefits, so as to prevent him from rejecting those who hold the highest rank, and conferring honor on the lowest and most contemptible; and that we are not at liberty to oppose him, when he entirely subverts that order, which would have approved itself to our judgment. Our attention is, no doubt, drawn to a contrast between Israel and the heathen nations: but still we ought to hold, that none are chosen, in preference to others, for their own excellence, but that it proceeds rather from the wonderful purpose of God, the height and depth of which, though the reason may be hidden from us, we are bound to acknowledge and adore.

—John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Lk 4:25)

Pulling It Together

There she sat, slumped, tired, and wracked with pain. Every time he went to visit her, it was the same. Yet she offered a little smile, sometimes a laugh, often a playful poke at her husband or the pastor. Behind the good nature of this Christian woman was the pain of cancer. Just as this affliction seemed to come out of nowhere, it seemed to have no reason. Why?

It is not fair. There is no answer except that God’s people must still pray and that God is inscrutable. He is not a puppet to be mastered by the demanding prayers of the religious. He heals whom he will heal and for his own reasons. Were it not so, to give one example, Paul might have simply healed Timothy; instead he told him to take some medicine (“a little wine,” 1Tm 5:23) for his “ailments. Too often we simply want what we want, not what God wants. We want pain to disappear and think it absurd when it does not. Wouldn’t God be glorified in my life if I was healed? God desires something more in our lives than the absence of pain. Sometimes he heals too; but in the meanwhile, he used a simple lady, bent with the pain of cancer to teach her family and neighbors how faithful people face the realities life.

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

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The Purpose of the Law

Daily Reform, Day 140

Galatians 2:17 & Exodus 20:18-21

From the Reformer

The purpose of the Law is to reveal sin. That this is the purpose of the Law can be seen from the account of the giving of the Law as reported in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Exodus. Moses brought the people out of their tents to have God speak to them personally from a cloud. But the people trembled with fear, fled, and standing aloof they begged Moses: “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” The proper office of the Law is to lead us out of our tents, in other words, out of the security of our self-trust, into the presence of God, that we may perceive His anger at our sinfulness.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

Moses brought the people out of their camp to meet God. (Exo 19:17) This is the purpose of the Law: to meet God. When at first we meet with God, we must be terrified. We must encounter who we are and that God is not pleased with us living lives separated from him. If we were worshiping an idol, we learn quickly that thus will never do. He is the One God. If we were coveting our neighbor’s wife or breaking any of his other laws, these will not stand with God either.

When we meet God in his Law we soon enough discover that we are perfectly lousy at keeping his commands. Ask David, whom God loved, and he will may relate to you a story of a woman taking a bath. David thought that he was above the law of God. He was acting foolishly and the law revived him, making him wise to the demands of God. Thereafter he was still unable to perfectly keep the perfect law of God. (Psa 19:7)

This is the purpose of the Law: to make us aware of our sin so that we may try to live as God desires but then, to see that we still cannot do so. No matter how hard we try, we cannot keep the law of the Lord. We soon see that something else is needed than law-keeping.

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

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The Righteousness of God

Daily Reform, Day 139

Galatians 2:17 & Matthew 25:41-46

From the Reformer

The Law requires perfect obedience. It condemns all who do not accomplish the will of God. But show me a person who is able to render perfect obedience. The Law cannot justify. It can only condemn according to the passage: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”

Paul has good reason for calling the minister of the Law the minister of sin, for the Law reveals our sinfulness. The realization of sin in turn frightens the heart and drives it to despair. Therefore all exponents of the Law and of works deserve to be called tyrants and oppressors.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

If Christ could be called a minister of the Law (and he cannot), his command would be, “Believe!” The accomplishment of his perfect will then is to believe in him, for this is what justifies a person with God.

I do not mean that the Law of Moses is of no use. The Holy Spirit uses it to convict the heart of sin and death. The resultant hopelessness makes one eager for the mercy of God. This is when the directive to believe brings righteousness and life. Eternal life is not the only result of belief in Christ. The other result is the prerequisite of righteousness, for eternal life is the result of a righteous life. (Matt 25:46) However, be especially clear on his point: the righteousness that is delivered through faith in Christ is not some goodness of your own. Your righteous standing before God depends upon faith — not your own good deeds. Rather, God imparts to you the very righteousness of Jesus Christ himself. This is the “righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Phil 3:9)

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

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The Struggle

Daily Reform, Day 138

Galatians 2:17 & Romans 15:8-13

From the Reformer

Whoever teaches that good works are indispensable unto salvation, that to gain heaven a person must suffer afflictions and follow the example of Christ and of the saints, is a minister of the Law, of sin, wrath, and of death, for the conscience knows how impossible it is for a person to fulfill the Law. Why, the Law makes trouble even for those who have the Holy Spirit. What will not the Law do in the case of the wicked who do not even have the Holy Spirit?

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

Life can be such a struggle. When my aim is to live by the Law, it is a terrible effort. I can not do it no matter how hard I try. Worse, because I fail, my conscience tells me that God surely does not love me as much as I had thought. When I continue to fail in my labor to live by the Law, I fear God may not love me at all, that I am worthless and condemned. That is what it is like to attempt to live by the Law. The Law is perfect; I am not.

Life can also be an experience of joy and peace. When I make my aim to live through Christ, his Holy Spirit reminds me of the great love of Jesus that supersedes my pitiful attempts at being religious. He reminds me that I am justified by my Lord having kept the Law for my sake. He reminds me in his Word that joy and peace will never come by my vain attempts to live by the Law. It is quite the opposite experience; such striving only brings sadness and struggle. Joy and peace come by believing in the One who fulfilled the Law for me. This is the hope of the Christian that gives life when life seems to be a struggle.

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

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Do You Believe This?

Daily Reform, Day 137

Galatians 2:17 & John 11:17-26

From the Reformer

Is therefore Christ the minister of sin? This is Hebrew phraseology, also used by Paul in 2 Corinthians, chapter 3. There Paul speaks of two ministers: the minister of the letter, and the minister of the spirit; the minister of the Law, and the minister of grace; the minister of death, and the minister of life. “Moses,” says Paul, “is the minister of the Law, of sin, wrath, death, and condemnation.”

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

Lots of people go to a particular church because of the pastor. He is so entertaining, preaches such lovely sermons, and gets along so well with the youth. They love their pastor so much that their religious life is nearly crushed when he retires or otherwise moves on.

There is, I fear, a larger contingent that goes to churches where ministers of sin stand in the pulpit. These preachers state that their flock must do this or that or they are headed to Hell.

Jesus is no such minister. He says, “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:26) “Do you believe this?”

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

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