Today's Reading: John 15:12-21
They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. (Matthew 19:7-8)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. As the argument so often goes between Jesus and the religious leaders, the question of the relation of the commandment to tradition has come up. But, as Jesus points out, there is no good works except those which God has commanded and no sin except those which God has forbidden. Thus, there is no good work we can perform, no other way we can hope to enter into eternal life other than by perfectly keeping the Ten Commandments.
It is not how our good works look, how important they seem, or how many we perform. It's not what other people think about them either, or whether the good works we do conform to the traditions we've inherited from our parents, grandparents, and fathers in the faith. The only measure God applies is the one that asks, “Have you kept my commands perfectly, not just by what you've done, but in your heart?”
This is why it's vital we first understand that all God's commandments are fulfilled in one way only: by trusting the good work Jesus performed by dying on the cross for all our sins. Therefore, when we ask the question, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answers, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
There are many good traditions in our church. There are many godly people, pastors, teachers, and so on whom we look to for guidance and affirmation. There are many good works we can do to help our neighbors. But none of these things will boost God's regard for us. Only by believing Jesus did what we can never do, trusting that He perfectly kept all the commands of God, can we perform truly good works—good works which are done by faith in Jesus' Name for our neighbors. So whether we walk, sit, sleep, eat, or help our neighbor, if we do it in faith we keep the law perfectly, God is pleased with us and heaven is open.
Thy work alone, O Christ, Can ease this weight of sin; Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, Can give me peace within. (LSB 567:3)
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