Does God have your attention yet? He has mine. These last days serve as a wake-up call to “humble yourselves ... under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6).
The warning has grown with every public address. Gather in groups of no more than 150, 50, 10, shelter in place, stay 6 feet apart lest you be 6 feet under. Exiled in our upper rooms, man-caves and she-sheds, doors locked for fear of the virus. It is frightening. It ought to be humbling.
Christians throughout the centuries have learned the habit of humbling themselves by fasting. To practice this, some give up their favorite sweets or Grade A sirloin. Others abstain from material goods like TV or Twitter. Some fast for health reasons. But the fast God calls for is a complete fast: hearts and lives. Flee sin. Pursue righteousness. (Read Isaiah 58:1-14).
Some have joked they did not think they would have to give everything up for Lent. Hopefully as Christians we are learning each day of our lives to give up every sin. Give it all up. Your gossip. Your grudges. Your lies. Your lusts. Let go. Your selfishness. Your self-centeredness. How hard is it to say you are sorry? Your idolatry. Your idleness. Your betrayal. Your backstabbing. Your cold heart. Your coveting. Your forgetfulness of the Sabbath. Your failure to love God with all your heart. The list goes on for each of us and it includes our American abominations: pornography, promiscuity, pride, and yes, abortion. But God calls me and you to confess our own sins and trust Christ (1 John 1:8-9).
Leave your sins at the foot of the cross. Don’t waste your precious time pointing fingers, blaming others, throwing your sister, husband, neighbor or nation under the bus. Tell God you are sorry for the wrongs you have done. “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5).
Trapped in his monk’s habit, Martin Luther wrongly believed his salvation depended on himself. As if God did his part, now he had to do his part to finish the job. Humility, repentance, and faith were thought to be our act instead of a free gift worked solely by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word. We get in that habit, too, don’t we?
Even before this pandemic, some asked, “How can I make it up to God? How can I pay the price for what I’ve done? How can I give my life to Jesus?” The scary but saving truth is you cannot do anything to forgive yourself, earn love or repair your relationship with God. That is all on Jesus. And that is what he has done. You aren’t saved because you give your life to Jesus. You are saved because Jesus gave his life for you. This is the truth of Good Friday and Easter that freed Luther and frees you through faith in Jesus alone.
Hands outstretched on the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” That famous Greek word is tetelestai, which means “paid in full.”
What is paid for? The wages of your sin. Your debt to God against the Ten Commandments. All of those sins we confess and many more \h— even those sins of which we are unaware — Jesus, true God, true man, paid with his life to save you. Tetelestai.
Hands outstretched in victory that first Easter evening, greeting his frightened disciples, Jesus exclaimed, “Peace be with you!” With his mighty hands he showed them his scars and side. And to make sure he had their attention so they got the message, he repeated, “Peace be with you!”
This public address ought to get our attention. This is a wake-up call for the ages. Christ is Risen. Our living Jesus makes a habit of walking into our upper rooms, musty man caves, and sparkly she-sheds \h— wherever we live in isolation or fear, by his Word and Spirit, Jesus joins you there, makes his home with you (John 14:23) and speaks his abundant peace to you. That Word brings inner peace and promises total peace. Shalom. Every last shard of our lives shattered and scattered by selfishness, pieced back together, whole. Kindness, human care, cuddles and neighborly love rekindled instead of canceled.
That is the power of God’s free forgiveness for us in Jesus’ hands. What wonderful, humbling, good news: we are forgiven, at peace, resting together in Christ’s saving scars. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).