Resting in the Arms of Jesus
JANUARY 29, 2020
Why does religion make us so weird?
It’s because we really think that what we do is important…and even more important than what God has already done.
Émile Durkheim, who was often called the father of modern sociology, defined religion as collective religious doctrines, beliefs, and rituals organized around sacred objects. They are universally obligatory, and define who is “in” and who is “out.”
It has often been noted that Judaism in Jesus’ time took the 613 laws given in Torah…and then added hundreds of others to them. For instance, you could only travel so far on the Sabbath from your property. So many Jews, before the Sabbath, would place pieces of their property, their belongings, in the direction in which they wanted to travel on the Sabbath…thus remaining faithful to the law.
We do the same thing.
A friend once said to me, “I just can’t do this Christian thing anymore. It’s true, but it’s too hard.”
But what if there was nothing to do? What if God already did it all? There isn’t…and he did.
Let’s listen in as Jesus teaches in Luke 18:9-30.
The Pharisee who went to the temple to pray thought he was saved…and he was wrong.
Now don’t misunderstand me here. The Pharisee was all that he said he was. He was good and righteous. He was a very religious man.
Jesus made an amazing statement in Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
That is a radical statement and far more radical than any of us think it is. People sometimes wonder why Jesus was so hard on the Pharisees. It is because you don’t kick a dead horse. The Pharisees in the first century were as close as one can get to born again Christians (that would be us) today. They believed in the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture, in miracles, and in eternal life. In fact, they were very close to the truth…but missed it.
They missed it because they thought they were right on the mark.
Frankly, there’s a narcissist streak in Christians that makes everything about us, what we do, and how good we are. And it’s the fastest way to miss the kingdom.
The tax collector who went to the temple to pray thought he wasn’t saved…and he was wrong.
Jesus said that he went away “justified.”
I loved my father, but he had nothing to do with the church. That wasn’t because of the church. (I never heard him utter even a word of criticism.) It was because of what he thought about himself. My father didn’t think he was good enough. In fact, he didn’t become a Christian until the last three months of his life when a doctor led him to Christ…because he didn’t think he was good enough. People lied to him about that, and he believed their lies.
Someone once asked a pastor, “Do you think there will be liars, adulterers, thieves, and murderers in heaven?” The pastor’s response was classic, “You don’t have to worry about it because you won’t be there.”
That’s a bit harsh because Jesus has mercy on the self-righteous and those who are self-righteous about the self-righteous too, but it’s a good point.
Everybody in heaven is surprised that he or she is there.
Don’t let anybody kid you. The tax collector was a bad person and maybe didn’t get much better after his season of prayer in the temple. Yet he was saved because he didn’t deserve to be saved.
I don’t care who you are, what you’ve done, the people you’ve hurt, or what you drink or smoke. Run to Jesus. You’ll be surprised too.
The rich young ruler thought he wanted to be saved…and he was wrong.
He asked the wrong question: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Do you know the most recorded song in all of human history? It’s the hymn, “Amazing Grace.” I believe that we’re sitting on top of another great awakening, a revival. What stands in the way? It’s when we take the lyrics of that hymn and add to it. The Gospel is simply, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…and you too, if you ask.”
But we add verses. And people leave the church.
If I had been there when the rich young ruler asked his question and left sorrowful, I would have grabbed him on the way out and said, “Don’t miss what Jesus is saying. He’s saying that you’re not good enough and you will never be. So, for God’s sake, give it up.
The infant got it right.
The infant didn’t think anything or do anything. The infant just rested, probably asleep, in the arms of Jesus.
The two major metaphors in the New Testament for salvation are dead people and infants. As for that first metaphor, Paul wrote, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). And Romans 6:11 put it this way, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” The other metaphor, that of an infant, is from Jesus who calls us to be like little children. The Greek here in Luke 18 doesn’t mean a child or a toddler…but an infant.
Jesus, with the infant in his arms, is trying to teach us that we are helpless. The Christian faith isn’t what we do. It is what God has already done for us.
Martin Luther had a wonderful definition of “sanctification.” “Sanctification is getting used to your justification.”
An infant can’t make an impact on the world or even lead a Bible study. An infant can’t obey the commandments. An infant, in total self-centeredness, breaks several of them. An infant can’t be a witness, disciple others, or even “give answer to the hope” that is in him or her.
All an infant can do is rest in the arms of Jesus.
And that’s enough. That’s more than enough.