Reflections: Monday, The Fifth Week of Epiphany

Today’s Reading: Isaiah 58:3-9a

Daily Lectionary: Job 3:11, John 1:35-51

 “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’” (Isaiah 58:8-9a)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. What makes a person a “good Christian”?  Is it because they don’t swear?  Is it because they don’t listen to explicit songs and don’t drink alcohol?  Is it because they wear a purity ring and refuse even to kiss before marriage?  Is it because they volunteer twice a week at the local food pantry?

For many people, it’s a moral life that defines a “good Christian.” But this is really all upside-down.  It’s not good morals that make a person a good Christian. The whole idea of a “good” Christian needs to be rethought.  Isaiah was speaking to “good” Israelites, who pouted that God wasn’t pleased with their dedication and obedience.

What’s missing was the more important thing: Faith in the God who redeems poor, miserable sinners.  As soon as we look for any good in us, we will be deceived into thinking we’re really something.  Jesus told us yesterday in Matthew 5, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  You and I need a righteousness that is nowhere found among the children of Adam and Eve.

Except One. There is One who perfectly kept the Law.  His fasting was sincere. His humility was of one who is gentle and lowly in heart.  By His affliction, He loosed the bonds of wickedness that held you, and let you who are harassed and helpless go free. With His pure garments of righteousness, He covers your shame and nakedness.  And now that He has so served you, you are called righteous on His account, holy and acceptable, blameless before God.  You have been given such wonderful promises as His healing, His righteousness, His glory to guard you, and His ear for your every prayer.

And from this faith come the new desires.  Going to church isn’t a chore, but something you long for because your Savior is there.  You’re respectful when you talk with others. You turn away from lewdness and discipline your body to not give into its lusts. You see someone in need and would gladly give them the shirt off your back.  All this, not to assure yourself how “good” you are, but because God alone is good, and by that goodness, He has made you His child. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

 Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone, And rests in Him unceasing; And by its fruits true faith is known,

   With love and hope increasing. For faith alone can justify; Works serve our neighbor and supply

   The proof that faith is living. Amen. (LSB 555:9)

-Pastor Michael A. Miller is Pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR.,

Audio Reflections Speaker: Patrick Sturdivant, Development and Marketing Executive at Higher Things.

Study Christ’s words on the cross to see how you can show more Christlike grace in your life. Perfect for group or individual study, each chapter has a Q&A at the end, and the back of the book includes a leader guide. Available now from Concordia Publishing House.