1 John 4:16-21
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
If this is how we act on the little things that we complain about so bitterly, but do not have the stomach to do or say anything about, then what will happen in the big things that really matter? Who will have courage to stand up when wrong is being done? We do not have courage to stand up for the little things which we all know if we tended to some of them it would prevent some of the bigger issues. We are weak. We have failed. Though you may occasionally stand up for what is right in some circumstances, you do not do consistently. There are people you let off the hook because it is just easier. There is your rebellious, cantankerous child whom you tired of fighting with, your spouse, or your neighbour whom you know beats his wife regularly, or cheats on her husband. We see our children going the wrong way, we see wickedness happening but we feel caught, unsure, afraid. We do not do what we know we should. Repent.
We tell ourselves that our turning a blind eye is compassionate. It is more civilized, enlightened, kinder, more just than those arrogant near-do-wells of previous generations. Or we tell ourselves we are being Christians, we are being gracious by not holding them to account. But in reality, we do not have the stomach to see people in pain or ourselves in conflict. Whether it is pain they have justly brought on themselves or not, or a pain they need in their lives to teach them to turn away from their folly, we do not want to see it. It is not kindness but our own squeamishness we are acting from. It is our own desire for peace at all costs, even if the cost of our peace with them is their eternal souls. Repent.
Your inconsistency discredits you. It means you are not just. You are not right. Before God and the world your accounts are bad. Praise God that He counts His promises to your accounts. He gives His Son’s justice, His Son’s consistency, His Son’s superabundant doing of what is right to you. All of this through faith. Simply through trusting Him when He says it to you. Abraham is our Father in this. He was counted, credited as righteous by God. Not because he actually acted consistently on God’s promises. Not because he had the strength of his own convictions or the stomach to act on what God said, but simply because God was gracious to him in Christ Jesus His Son.
So also you who believe in God’s promised Son, you are credited as righteous! You are given a justice and consistency not your own. You have done all things well for God’s Son has done it in your place. He has paid the cost of your debt.
That means Father Abraham holds open his arms to you. He sits in heaven ready to welcome, on God’s behalf, all those who are His children by faith. Those who know their credit with God is bad. Those who know they are beggars before the Lord. Those who know they do not have the stomach to do what they should. Who know they have not done what is right, who have said one thing and done another. But trusting in His promised salvation you have turned to God in repentance.
Like Lazarus we are beggars who cling to our God’s promises. The name Lazarus means “He whom God helps.” Lazarus represents you and me. In our sin we have nothing to offer God. Our credit is bad. We can not buy salvation. But He credits us with the goodness of His Son. This is called justification. You are justified when God reckons your account with Himself settled. In faith your credit score is superb. Not because it actually is, but because He has reconciled you not with silver or gold, but with His Son’s precious blood and innocent suffering and death.
Abraham too was a beggar before God. God gave Him his wealth, his household, even promised him a son. Abraham was 75 when these promises first came to him. His wife was 65 and well past child bearing years. They had been barren all their marriage. It would be another 25 years before God made good on His promise by giving that son to Abraham. Along the way Abraham wavered in his trust of God’s promises to him. Abraham had high and lows. This shows it is not Abraham who earned God’s credit. His credit was bad. He could never act consistently on God’s promises. But God is so gracious a banker that He pours out good credit after bad. And He keeps pouring. He keeps justifying your accounts before Himself. Even when you doubt and flee. Even when He has to go out and search for you again, not like a collection agency looking for a pound of flesh, but like a Shepherd seeking to return you to His fold.
His grace is so amazing that beggars like Lazarus, and slaves like Eliezer—which is really same name with the same meaning—and people like you and me, all become Abraham’s sons in the same way Abraham was counted as righteous before God. Through faith. Not through strong faith. Not through good faith. God’s faith that He works in us is credited to us. God's promise is that in Jesus Christ, the promised Son, all countless sons of faith will be given to Abraham.
God makes good on His promises. At 100 years old Abraham had a son. Thousands of years later Abraham not only has countless millions of Jews and Arabs directly descended from his body, but billions are counted as His children by trusting in God’s promises to them in Christ Jesus.
Let’s be clear, God does not promise life in Him will be easy. Lazarus was a beggar, tended in his affliction only by dogs, rejects, and outcasts. But then Christ’s Church is made up of sinners, rejects, and outcasts is it not? The rich, the successful, the powerful of the world will scoff at us. They have no need to listen to God’s promises for they have what they want. Only in eternity will many see their folly. In your weakness you believe, be it ever so imperfectly. Your account is justified with God by His promises. Pray then for our nation, for yourselves, for the strength to do what is right, to not be wimps, to not turn your back on injustice. And when you fail know that you are justified. Know that you are God’s child of promise, saved by the suffering of His promised Son who has paid your debts, settled your accounts, and credits you with His own perfect righteousness. In Christ your heavenly credit score is perfect.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON