From time to time I flip through the television channels to watch various T.V. preachers, just to see what they’re up to. Not long ago I came across a woman who was speaking to a packed auditorium of several thousand people. I listened in for a few minutes and the message was clear; if you expect anything from God, if you want success, you had better get your life in order.
It didn’t seem to occur to the preacher that these folks had spent the last week doing just that in any number of ways, mostly with limited or no success, and that some relief might be in order. It’s hard to understand why she would simply remind them of their wounds and then put the verbal whip on them to try harder. It’s also hard to understand why people would return week after week and subject themselves to reminders, couched in omnipotent terms, of their inadequacy. Well, actually, it’s not hard to understand at all.
Preying on people’s fears, inadequacies and brokenness works. And it works precisely because we are so terribly vulnerable in this life. Once we get our wits about us in this world it becomes quite obvious that to get along we have to be good for something. We must demonstrate our value in tangible ways. Some are more or less up to the challenge, some fail miserably, and most people wobble along in fits and starts anxious for security, looking for shelter from the storm. They are suckers for bootstraps religion. Nothing else in life is free, why should God be free?
Well, based on the generally lackluster performance most of us produce in this life I can fully appreciate the question. I’ve asked it myself. And the answer, surprisingly enough, has been given by God Himself.
“When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.”
We call that the Good News. It is what I was hoping the T.V. preacher would get around to but she never did. So, here, in an unvarnished quote from that late purveyor of God’s glorious grace, Gerhard Forde, is the word of irrepressible freedom delivered to you this day; it is a word of pure gift.
“We are justified freely, for Christ’s sake, by faith, without the exertion of our own strength, gaining of merit, or doing of works. To the age-old question, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ the confessional answer is shocking: ‘Nothing! Just be still; shut up and listen for once in your life to what God the Almighty, creator and redeemer, is saying to his world and to you in the death and resurrection of his Son! Listen and believe!’”
(Gerhard O. Forde, Justification by Faith (Philadelphia, 1983), page 22.)
Isn’t it great? There is nothing left to do. Christ Jesus has done it all! Let go of your bootstraps, sit back, relax and take a deep breath of the free air. The Son has set you free!
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”