How reassuring to hear Paul proclaim, “All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved.” Christians are those who, at least on a weekly basis in our worship, “call on the Lord’s name.” The rituals, teaching, and proclamation of the church are training in the art of calling upon the Lord’s name.
The trouble is, Paul doesn’t say “those who have their names on the membership roll of the church” or “believers who are as morally upright as you” or “people who resemble you and your friends” will be saved.
Paul says “all.” All?
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, got into big trouble for consistently preaching Paul’s message of “salvation for all.” Against those who said that Christ died for many but not all, or who said that God’s love was conditioned on our ability to love God in certain ways, Wesley exuberantly proclaimed that Christ’s work is without boundaries. All?
How wonderfully reassuring to know that Christ has stepped over all the barriers and obstacles that kept us distant from his love! And yet, to tell the truth, it’s disconcerting to hear that Christ has done for all what Christ has done for me. All?
Surely that doesn’t include horrible people who have committed terrible crimes. “All” must not mean those who are steadfastly cruel and unjust to their neighbors. How about the guy who cheated me on a business deal? And the person who said that my sermons are boring? All?
The first Bible verse I learned by heart was John 3:16: “For God so loved me, and people in my church who look and act a lot like me, that God gave God’s only begotten Son . . .”
Isn’t that how that verse goes?
God so loved the world? All?
Lord Jesus, help us to give thanks that your love extends beyond us. Amen.
As we begin the season of Lent, the readings provide several images of how we might prepare our hearts. Deuteronomy focuses on gratitude with a recitation of the history of God’s faithfulness. The people are instructed to offer their gifts to God as a response to God’s generosity. The psalmist focuses on faithfulness. If we put our confidence in God, God will protect and sustain us. In Romans, Paul emphasizes faith. Our confession of faith from the mouth should come from the heart, and this heart confession saves us. The story of the temptation of Jesus admonishes us to know biblical truth. The devil tempts Jesus with half-truths—even scriptural quotes—but Jesus counters with correct understanding of God’s Word and God’s character.
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11. We no longer offer physical sacrifices to God. How do you give the “first fruits” of your labor to God in thanksgiving?
Read Psalm 91:2, 9-16. Recall a time you have felt abandoned or insecure. How did God respond to your call?
Read Romans 10:8b-13. Paul learned to see those he once despised as his equals in Christ. Whom does God call you to learn to love?
Read Luke 4:1-13. How do you follow Jesus’ example to use scripture to resist temptation?
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