Weekly Wisdoms for the week of April 24, 2023
Martin Luther was once asked what we contribute to salvation. He famously replied, "Sin and resistance."
Had the Apostle Paul been asked this question, he would have replied with a similar answer. In Romans 3, Paul gives a beautiful explanation of the gospel, beginning with a fatal diagnosis of humanity: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one (v. 10-12).
To be clear, it's not that we were born neutral and then became sinners by making sinful choices. Rather, we were born into sin; at birth our very nature was sin. The psalmist laments that he was sinful even before he was born: Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5). In other words, before we did anything, we were sinful because sin is our nature—sinful is who we are.
Being sinful at birth means we are spiritually dead at birth because sin leads to death (Romans 6:23). And dead people cannot make themselves alive. You contributed nothing to your physical birth (you can thank your mother and father for your physical birth!) and you cannot contribute anything to your spiritual birth.
But don't we need to put our faith in Christ in order to be saved? Absolutely! But even faith in Christ is a gift from God. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 2:8-9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Notice that faith is "not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." And if that weren't clear enough, Paul reinforces his point by saying that your salvation is "not by works" (i.e., not by anything you accomplished) because if it were then you could boast. But, since God does everything to bring about your salvation, you cannot boast (c.f. Romans 3:27).
You were dead, but God made you alive. He saved you. The only thing you contributed was sin and resistance.
In Matthew 13:3-6, Jesus told this parable: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root." One point Jesus makes in this parable is that people without deep roots in God will fall away from faith whenever persecution or trials come on account of the word (see Matthew 13:20-21).
Similarly, Jesus encourages his followers to build their house (i.e. their life) on "the rock" (see Matthew 7:24-27). Even though the wind and storms beat against that house, it did not crumble because it was founded on the rock. If you have deep roots in God, your life will be built on the Rock—Christ. As one hymn says, "On Christ alone I stand, all else is sinking sand."
It is no surprise, then, that Paul encourages believers to be rooted and built up in Christ, strengthened in the faith (Colossians 2:6-7). If you are strengthened in faith, then you won't crack under the pressure of difficult situations because you will be able to dig deeply into the word of God on which you are firmly grounded. Unfortunately, too many Christians have a cracked foundation.
Make it a priority to have deep roots in God so that you will not wither under the heat of life. Invest time into reading and memorizing God's word, praying, and communing with God. Be rooted in God.
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