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Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Monroe, Michigan New Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio May 8th, 2011 “A RISEN SAVIOR = DEBT FREE LIVING”
3rd Easter Sunday Rev. Christopher D. White 1 Peter 1:17-21
To live in a constant state of debt is to live in economic slavery. Some forms of debt are just part of life nowadays. A young man or woman can’t go to Martin Luther College in New Ulm for their B.S.E. or a B.A. without taking on some student loans, because of the decrease in funding to the student grant/aid programs. A young man giving his life in service to the Church cannot go a full four years at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary without acquiring at least a little bit of debt given the amount of money invested in theological books alone. Add to the debt of being a student the debt one might acquire through purchase of a car, purchase of a home and the various unnecessary frivolities that end up on credit card statements, and one can easily find themselves seriously indebted with a long road ahead. I, personally, am looking forward to the day when all of our debt is paid off. Ever since my days on the hill in New Ulm, Minnesota, I have had some debt – some of it necessary, most of it nonsense! And that’s been 15 years now. I can’t wait for the day when all I get in the mail are statements that have under “current balance” - $0.00. I imagine that would be quite a good feeling, a satisfying feeling that I am no longer under the thumb of Capital One or HSBC or Sallie Mae. Debt can be enslaving. And since children of the earth are familiar with what debt is and how it affects our lives, the Holy Spirit chooses, in the Bible to teach us through that picture, to teach us about a profound spiritual truth that is meant to bring us comfort and motivation. We’re looking at the effects of the resurrection of Jesus in our everyday lives, and today, in verses 17-21 of Peter’s first epistle, we learn that a risen Savior = debt free living. No, he hasn’t paid your student loans, your credit cards or your mortgage for the month; but the most crippling and devastating debt of all, sin, has been paid with the only price that can satisfy that debt, the innocent blood of the unblemished Lamb. And that status of being sin-debt free is our motivation to live as children of faith, and strangers of the world. A risen Savior = debt free living. The Son has made the acceptable payment. And the Father makes the impartial judgment. I. The Son has made the acceptable payment
We’re going to come back to verse 17 in a moment, because it really is the overall encouragement that Peter gives to his readers. The reason for his encouragement to “live in reverent fear” is found in verses 18-19, which are actually found in the explanation to the 2nd article in the catechism...thus at one time in your life, you’ve memorized a portion of this: “18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” There was only one acceptable price that could be accepted for the redemption of mankind from the slavery of sin – the innocent blood of the atoning sacrifice. Nothing else is good enough. Nothing else is acceptable. Oh, we wish that we could pay our credit card bills with good intentions, or pay our car payments with words of wisdom. But it doesn’t work that way. When we acquire debt of any kind, the only acceptable repayment option is money. Our creditors won’t accept leftover jelly beans from Easter, unused cell phone minutes or DSL bandwidth. You pay them back with money, and if you have to borrow to pay another creditor for what you already borrowed, (robbing Peter to pay Paul), that’s a road to financial destitution.
“For you know that is was not with corruptible things...that you were redeemed.” Children of the world are rather clever in the ways that they choose to deal with their sin-debt. Most imagine that they can work off their debt. That’s what the Jewish people grew up with in their synagogues, an astounding compendium of conflicting human opinions about what to do and what not to do to with absolutely no mention of the forgiving grace and mercy of the Messiah. “Empty!” On the other hand, while some imagine that they can work their debt off, what’s worse is that some pay no attention to their spiritual lives. Like a consumer who gets a bill and just throws it in the garbage, a vast majority of human beings just sweep their sin, their spiritual responsibility under the rug hoping that it’ll just go away and bring them no consequences. It always does! “Empty,” Peter says. That’s empty! Remember at what cost you were brought into fellowship with your Heavenly Father – the cost of his one and only Son. Luther so beautifully explains in his exposition on this verse: “Just one drop of this innocent blood would have been enough for the sin of the whole world. Yet the Father wanted to pour out his grace on us so abundantly, and to spend so much, that he let his Son...shed all his blood to give us the entire treasure. Therefore he does not want us to make light of and think little of such great grace.” There was only one acceptable payment, and Jesus made it. Our good works, our good intentions, our conduct, none of those things can adequately replace the outpoured blood of Christ our Savior. Try as we might, and I hear it all the time from people about what good people they are and all the good things they think, say and do, which most of the time stands as a justification for sin. None of that makes us right with God. Our catechism rightly confesses: “He purchased and won me from all sin, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death...all this he did that I should be his own.” What does a risen Christ mean? It means that he made a payment for our debt. The payment was enough. Nothing more needs to be paid. And his resurrection means that his payment was acceptable and accepted by the Father for all the world, for you and for me. We don’t need to come up with an alternate form of payment that will inevitably be inadequate and insufficient. Jesus was the payment. And the best news of all is that his payment is applied to us without any demand of worthiness on our part, but simply through the work of the Spirit in Word and sacrament, through which II. The Father makes the impartial judgment
Now! Now, having established that the payment is made for our sin-debt, now we are given solid encouragement for our life’s journey: “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your sojourn...” “Conduct yourselves with reverent fear,” because God can see through a phony! The fear that Peter speaks of refers to not only the fear of falling back into the judgment of the Almighty, but especially the fear that looks to God and his Christ for salvation and moves us to not be phonies, and to be genuine in our Christian faith. For the judgment made by the Father on the Day of Judgment will be impartial, it will be fair and it will be based on the righteousness of Christ which is imparted by faith – and that faith naturally and necessarily lives and bears fruit in our lives. If you plant an apple tree, it’ll give you apples. When the Spirit plants faith in our hearts, it produces desires for a holy and pleasing life before God. Thus, if we are truly in a sin-debt-free state of living as children of the heavenly Father, it’s not consistent for us to use the payment Christ made for sin as a license TO sin! What I mean by that is, we cannot use the fact of Christ’s payment for sin on the cross as a reason to think to ourselves, “Now I have
Cart Blanche! I can do whatever I want now and there won’t be any consequences because Jesus paid for all my sins.” Paul had to teach the Romans about that tendency towards carnal security: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” His resurrection means that we have a new kind of life to live, and it isn’t for the gratification of the sinful nature. It isn’t to fall right back into the same slavery from which our Savior has freed us by his blood. This new life of faith is the glorification of him who erased our debt by his death. It is the genuine striving to continue to live sin-debt-free, to not be satisfied to look like and act like the unbelieving world, for to do otherwise brings with it the danger of forfeiting the grace that is ours in Christ, to re-enslave ourselves. We live a new life! A new kind of life! We live in reverent fear and faith that produces fruit in keeping with repentance, awaiting that final impartial judgment when the merits of Christ will stand as testimony for our innocence, and our lives will stand as supporting testimony of our faith in his ransom payment! Amen.
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