Readings: Micha 7:18-20 | 1 Timothy 1:12-17 | Luke 15:1-10
Text: Luke 15:1-10
What God says about Himself makes all the difference. If we start with the idea of what we think God is like, or what we think He would or should do, we will quickly fall into error.
The Church is perpetually plagued by this. From the early errors of the Valentinians (Gnostics) who try to impose their mythology on the true God, the Arians and Muslims who deny that the Son can be true God, to the Pelagians who say that man is spiritually better and more capable than God says he is. During the Middle Ages in western Christendom, God’s teaching us had been covered over by doctrines of men, which said what the Son of God did on the cross wasn’t everything; you had to contribute your own works to really have assurance of salvation. Contrary to what God tells us in His Word, it was taught that man had some residual bit of good left in him, by which he could respond to God and cooperate in being saved.
The parables of Luke 15 show us plainly who God is and who we are in our sin. They show a God who “receives sinners and eats with them.” Manmade religions from around the world show that this is abhorrent: a holy God is angry with the sinner and rewards those who choose the path of obedience—sacrifices, karma, and holy works appease God and prove to Him that we are worthy.
This is not the true God. The true God is the one who seeks the lost sheep, who by its own foolishness has wandered, and who by its own feebleness cannot bring itself back. The sinner cannot find his way back to God, but must be brought by the Good Shepherd.
Mankind is thoroughly wicked in God’s sight, that “every intention of his heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21) and we “have all turned aside; together [we] have become corrupt” (Psalm 14:3). Nevertheless, as a woman who has 10 silver coins and has lost one, our lives are precious and valuable in His sight. He seeks us, He rejoices over us being brought to repentance and being restored to Him.
The Confession made at Augsburg in 1530 (493 years ago today) was a great reset on doctrines of men that had been formulated, codified, and even propped up by plausible quotes from Scripture and revered Fathers of the Church. That sort of reset is constantly needed, not because God’s Word doesn’t speak to people of our own generation. Instead, it’s because we sinners are constantly prone to disbelieve what God says, insert our own appealing thoughts, and wander off into myths about God above and ourselves.
Our own day is no exception in the history of God’s people. There are the gross errors of those who stand outside the faith, and teach that sinners have not sinned and so make God a liar. There are also subtle errors which hinder and poison faith: Repentance is our work to pray the “sinner’s prayer” and give Jesus our heart; that baptism is something we do to demonstrate how we have heard and obeyed; that correct doctrine isn’t important just so long as you feel love for Jesus; that the Lord’s Supper is a matter of our own personal interpretation and so everyone ought to be allowed to commune.
Reset and let God’s word be true—“that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment” (Psalm 51:4) and “Let God be true, though every man were a liar.” (Rom. 3:4) And we will see the true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who loves and saves sinners like you and me, so that we may rejoice in Him and give Him glory forever.
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.