This devotion is the written accompaniment to a video Lenten message that can be viewed on our YouTube Channel by clicking HERE.
It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose God’s temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, God embraced us. God took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. God did all this on God’s own, with no help from us! Then God picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.
Now God has us where God wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all God’s idea, and all God’s work. All we do is trust God enough to let God do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. God creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join God in the work God does, the good work God has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. Ephesians 2:1-10 (The Message)
Our relationship with God is a gift from God. There is nothing we do to earn it, nothing we can do to deserve it. And yet, we are called to live out our gratitude for the gift, to share with everyone, every person, the depths of love and grace we have been shown out of the love of God.
Don’t we get hung up on one pole of this tension or the other? Either our understanding of the grace and compassion of God leads us to mistreat, even abuse, those whom God calls us to love, or we get so caught up in having to prove ourselves worthy that we suffer from fear and self-abuse, waiting for the shoe to drop because the good news is too good to be true.
My friends, allow God to set us free from these extremes. Let the radical part of our lives be found in the way we love our neighbor as an expression of our love for God. When we remember the focus of this whole Lenten experience—"Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?"—we also remember the answer is NO! The fast God chooses is a fast of justice, freedom, and compassion! Why? Because these are the signs of God’s rule breaking into God’s world! Thanks be to God! We are welcomed into that rule and called to live out our place in it. We are repairers of the breach, restorers of streets to live in!
Rev. Michael Doerr
Pastor, First Christian Church, Wauseon