“Is it not wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside ourselves?” – Martin Luther
Have you ever heard of “The Sunday School Answer”?
It is the one answer that seems to be the answer to any question asked in Sunday School. Do you know that answer? It is always “Jesus”. No matter the question, the answer must be Jesus, right?
That may be cute for kids, but, as grown people, we have spiritual questions where the answer couldn’t be that simple. How many silent moments are a cacophony of conundrums where simple, childhood answers are naïve and tossed in the garbage like scrawled notes of rejected possibilities?
How many of us have secretly feared the silence of this question – Am I really accepted before God?
The weight of eternity, the fear of rejection, and suspicion of conditional salvation haunts our silent moments. How do we answer it? We begin going down our lists. We compare ourselves to others. We come to our own rescue as the defense lawyer we need.
Yet, we may forget the rejected answer crumpled on the floor.
As a child
Why do we rejected the Sunday School answer of Jesus?
In essence, it is too simple and easy. We know life isn’t that easy or straight forward.
We forget what Jesus says in Luke 18:16-17 – The Kingdom of God belongs to those who accept it as a child.
Our faith belongs to the heart of a child. Yes, that includes the simplicity of a child’s answer. But, what does that look like?
Most time when Christians define what faith looks like, two answers come to mind. First, it is a long prepared answer that is a complicated as taking a systematic theology course. The second answer is usually a jumbled jigsaw puzzle of images and verses leaving more uncertainty than the “clarity” found in a presidential debate.
Luke 18:15-17 gives us a glimpse at what the childlike faith is. We see children approaching Jesus for a blessing. However, the disciples scold them and try to move them away so they wouldn’t bother Jesus. But, it is the disciples who are scolded. Jesus opens his arms up for those who approach him.
The faith of a child is the faith that approaches. We see this time and time again in the Gospels. The people who came to Jesus for healing came in faith. Faith in Jesus caused them to approach Jesus. You didn’t see them prove themselves in order to be healed. You didn’t hear the parents fussing over their children messing up their clothing or saying embarrassing things. Instead, you see them approach.
In order to accept the simple answer, we must realize that faith is simple too. It is a simple approach to Jesus believing he is who he says he is and will do what he says.
The new has come
When it comes to answering the question of our acceptance before God, we are quick to reject the childlike faith, Sunday School answer. Why? We live in a mindset of proving ourselves over and over that we forget that God isn’t like that.
In Mark 14:12-26 we see something new. Jesus creates a new covenant. In the Old Testament, the covenant God set up with his people was based on conditions, blessings, and curses (Deuteronomy 28). Laws, regulations, and standards became the way man related with God. Yet, when Jesus inaugurates the new covenant in the Gospels, it is based on his body and blood. The sins of many are forgiven because Christ is poured out and offered as a sacrifice. No more conditions required.
How do we know this? Mark 15:37-38 shows us the death of Jesus causing the curtain separating man from the presence of God being torn in twain. This means that in coming to God, we no longer have the conditions of the old covenant acting as our bodyguard weeding out who can approach God and who cannot. Instead, we are invited to boldly take Christ’s hand as our advocate and stand in the presence of God (Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 2:1-2).
We can forget our self-constructed defense case. The old has passed away. The new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christ has given us a new life. We cannot relate to God in our new life by referring to the rules of the old life. We have to do everything in a new way. This is what Jesus means in the passage about the new wine and new wineskins (Luke 5:37-39).
The old answer to our acceptance before God is our complicated defense case. The new and better answer is the childlike faith approaching Jesus. The new answer is the Sunday School answer.
THE WASTED SACRIFICE
Even though the Sunday School answer screams only Jesus, we still want our defense case. We want to stand before God proving why he should accept us. We also want other Christians to prove to us why God should accept them. Our faith doesn’t stand on the single-focus of Jesus.
What do we focus on as the basis of our acceptance before God? The lists we create. I know churches who believe you are not a true Christian unless you only use the King James Version. I have met believers who question salvation if you attend a church that uses rock music, believes in differing end times theologies, and a whole host of other issues. Are those the things that make someone accepted before God?
In the new covenant, what was the sacrifice in order to tear the curtain in two? Was it our payment or Christ’s payment?
What happens if we continue in this idea that acceptance before God rests on us? Paul tells us in Galatians 2:17-21. First, we are called a sinner for rebuilding the old system that has been torn down (v. 18). Second, we see Christ’s death and resurrection as a waste (v. 21). We treat Jesus as a waste of God-given grace. We do not need him, because we are good enough on our own. We spit on God and become our own just and justifier rather than letting God be the loving judge he is.
Only means only
Jesus is the answer to our concern over our acceptance before God. Only Jesus. Only his blood. Only his new covenant. Only him.
“Preach it! I believe that Jesus is my only way to Heaven!” Let’s get an amen and say it louder for the people in the back!
However, let me ask – why don’t we live like this or treat others with this in mind?
How many times do we question another person’s salvation? How many times do we fret if we didn’t do certain things? How many times do we question if someone is a good Christian or not?
If Jesus is the basis for our acceptance before God, then why are we raking people over the coals if their lives do not match ours? I did not know you were the next incarnation of God. The most un-Christian thing we can do is treat ourselves and others as if Jesus wasn’t truly the only way to be accepted by God. We are not the defense attorney or judge or jury.
We are the accused. We are the ones facing a sentencing that will obliterate us if we even try to accept our fate. We need a judge, a defense, and a jury of divine grace, love, and justice. It is only found in Jesus will we find true justice, love, and freedom. In our just release, we need to treat others as God has done to us. We show them the grace extended to us.
The answer is really simple. It is just Jesus. Only Jesus. Jesus isn’t a jumbled jigsaw puzzle. He is the approachable incarnation of God.
Let’s no longer live under old conditions. Let’s not rebuild what the blood of Jesus ripped in two. Let’s no longer put people on the witness stand to defend their faith swearing on our standards to tell the truth.
Let’s rest in the defense of Jesus. Let’s celebrate in the verdict of the Father because of Jesus.
Am I accepted before God?
Yes, because of Jesus.
But what about…
Quiet your worried heart. It is Jesus.