Wednesday, December 16, 2009

why should you get to go to Heaven?

I read Luke 7:1-10 to the older two boys tonight and was struck by a few, new things-- in the somewhat famous passage on "the faith of the centurion".

The centurion wants his servant to be healed. He sends "some elders of the Jews" to Jesus. In response, Jesus goes along. Then, the centurion sends friends to meet Jesus, telling him that saying the words will be sufficient. Jesus expresses amazement at his faith-- one of the few (three?) times we see this in the Gospels.

Tonight, I was struck by the speeches by the two sets of emissaries.

The first group says "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue."

The second group speaks for the centurion and says, "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you."

Luke means to lay out a clear contrast by using the same word "deserve". From the perspective of the elders, the centurion deserves this favor; from the centurion's perspective, he doesn't deserve any such thing.

Two punchlines:

1.) These are the two basic approaches to God. For example, in response to "why are you going to heaven when you die?", many people will say "because I'm a good person." In other words, I deserve it. The biblical record indicates that only a second approach will be effective: "I don't deserve it, but I accept your gift of salvation and grace by faith."

2.) When one claims to deserve something, it begs the question "why"-- an explanation for why one is (supposedly) deserving. Here, the case laid out by the elders is interesting and parallels similar problems today. They base their argument on his love of country and his service to the church. Likewise, people are often idolatrous toward their country and confuse the church or even the Church with Christ as Savior and Lord.

Especially in this season, don't confuse grace and works; don't confuse deserving and undeserving. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Jesus did not come for grins, but to die for your sins. Embrace that grace and enjoy abundant and eternal life with a gracious Savior and Lord!

UPDATE: I forgot to add a link to an excellent Steve Taylor song, Jesus Is for Losers!


At December 16, 2009 at 11:19 PM , Blogger Shawn said...

As Willard writes, "Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort."

At December 17, 2009 at 2:09 AM , Blogger Sara Chambers said...

Thank God we don't get what we deserve. Thank you God, for the amazing gift of your Son, who died so we didn't have to get what we deserve. It's so amazing that we get the greatest gift of all when we are not even worthy to tie His sandals.

At December 17, 2009 at 7:18 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Amen, Sara!

Shawn's comment brings important balance to the devastating notion of "cheap grace".

At December 17, 2009 at 11:59 AM , Blogger PianoMom said...

I like that Willard quote.

This post made me think of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector from Luke:

9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about[a] himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."


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