Foundations: No You-Gotta with Jesus
By John C. Drosendahl
I remember that day back at seminary when Professor Kopitske started evangelism class by blowing loudly on his "ah-oo-gah" horn. We had no clue what he was doing, until he described it to us as a "you gotta" horn. He blew it again. "You-gotta, you-gotta, you-gotta!" He told us that this sound should be a grave warning to our ears, because it is the sound of every other religion except for true Christianity. So, to this very day, whenever I hear somebody say, "But pastor, don't you gotta..." I hear that horn sound the warning that this is not a Christian-based statement.
You Can't Earn Salvation
You see, Christianity is the only religion that doesn't require your efforts to appease God. God doesn't call you to clean yourself up first and make yourself presentable to Him. After all, while you were yet sinners, Christ died for you (Romans 5:8). God doesn't require you to work hard to merit salvation, and you couldn't even if you tried. Isaiah reminds you that all your righteousness is like the filthy rags of death (Isaiah 64:6). You can't strive, struggle, and strain to earn salvation either, because instead of being perfect—holy as the LORD your God is holy—you sin...and the wages of that sin is death (Romans 6:23).
So instead of trying to be the last little piggies all the way home, we true Christians don't keep saying "We, we, we." If we do, we end up worshiping the wrong god: "wejus." "We just need to make Jesus the Lord of our lives." "We just need to make a sincere commitment to serve Him." "We just have to dedicate our lives to God." Wejus just doesn't cut it. Instead of wejus, we need Jesus.
You Don't Have to Earn It
So in place of the church of "you gotta," Jesus gives us the Church of "It is finished." Instead of the works wejus wanna do, Jesus gives us the Church of "Father, forgive them." The merit system of quid pro quo (one thing for another) is gone. You don't need to work your backside off in an attempt to merit eternal life, because Jesus has already lived that perfect life under God's Law for you as the Holy One of God. You don't need to pay your way into heaven, because Jesus, God-come-down-in-the-flesh, has already paid for it at Calvary.
Not only has your salvation already been earned by Jesus' perfect life of righteousness in your place, your salvation has been paid for by the perfect sacrificial offering of Jesus, who gave His life as a ransom for many, including you. All that God needed to do to justify the entire world and reconcile all people to Himself was accomplished by Jesus who lived for you, died for you, and raised Himself to new, everlasting, glorious, heavenly life for you.
But Wait...There's NOT More?
People will understandably counter with, "But doesn't something have to be done now as well?" Indeed those "somethings" are done now, by God for us and through us. God the Holy Spirit gifts us with faith, rebirthing us in Baptism, made to be new creations in Christ Jesus with regenerated life. Where an unbeliever once lay, now a believer is made to rise up and walk in newness of life, for the faith God puts in each of us He overfills on purpose. It’s not because He likes messes, but because He wants your faith to spill over from you onto the next person in works of faithfulness (which really ought to be understood as faith-full-ness).
And God also keeps on working in us with His gifts of grace. He keeps placing Jesus into your ears each time you hear the Gospel taught and proclaimed in church. He keeps placing Jesus' very Body and Blood into your mouth at the Lord's Supper. For these are means of grace, ways God's gracious forgiveness keeps on blessing you more and more. "But Pastor," you might say, "if Baptism forgives all my sins, why do I need more forgiveness from sermons and communion?" It’s because your God loves to give without measure. To Him, too much of a good thing is never enough. He wants to bless you more and more and more, and even forevermore.
It's All Christ for You
So, where all the other religions of the world are based on that odd barter system, true Christianity is not. Muslims have to do five things first to get something back from Allah. Buddhists have to seek Siddhartha Gautama's path to enlightenment before they get to listen to Nirvana. Many flavors of Christianity muddle the Bible's truth, saying, "If we just do this, then God will...". Not so with true Christianity, for God is eternal and God is love. In that eternal love He wrote your name in His Book of Life before the creation of the universe.
What is left for us Christians to do then, if God has done it all? Keep on rejoicing that God's love to us keeps on working as God's love through us! Jesus, who proclaims His forgiveness to us in Holy Absolution, uses our mouths to forgive our neighbors when they sin against us. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). God not only gives us lots of neighbors to love, but also is the very Love with which we care for them.
Rev. John C. Drosendahl grew up in a small onion farming town near Buffalo, New York. He went to Concordia College in Bronxville where he met the lovely Lauri. He went to seminary at Concordia in St. Louis. Graduating in 1992, he has served as a pastor in Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and North Carolina. He is currently pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Mandeville, Louisiana. He has also served Higher Things as conference catechist, and several times as conference chaplain.
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