Jesus - Period

Text: Galatians 3:15-22

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

There is a peculiar characteristic of humanity.  We always like to have the last word, and we want to do things our way.

For example, husbands and wives, when in disagreement, how many of you will fight to the death to get the last word? Even when you agree to disagree, isn’t there a profound temptation to sneak in the last word?

And think about children and youth. How many children and youth get frustrated with mom and dad saying, “let me do it,” while pushing a helping hand away? 

Furthermore, consider all of the projects that you have worked on in groups as well. Isn’t there a huge temptation to always tweak the final product, so that you are the last one to touch the project?

It seems that all of us like to Monday Morning Quarterback. That is to say; we always believe that we can do things better. We like to have the last word. We need to put our two cents in after the fact.  We just cannot let things be but are always tinkering, always adjusting, and always adding to things. 

Now, the reason why this is so is that we have this peculiar need to be in control and justify ourselves.  In other words, we like to be right.  We want to be our own masters.  We want to make ourselves look good.  And we want to make our names great.  So, if somebody one-ups us, well… we get the last word.  When someone tries to do something for us that makes them look better than us, we say to ourselves, “I will give it a try; surely I can do better,” and then we take over to make ourselves look great.  When someone does a great project, well… we take the final project and put ‘our’ finishing touches on it to make it our project.  We do all of this to be in control, to get the credit, to look good, and to be righteous.  We have a difficult time keeping our hands off of things but want everything underneath our control, power, and name.   

Tragically, this mentality flows into the church and Christianity as well. This kind of thinking is exactly the kind of thinking that corrupted the Gospel in the churches of Galatia several thousand years ago. 

In our Epistle Reading from today, the Apostle Paul is addressing the Christians in the Province of Galatia.  And these Christians had been going along smoothly in the Gospel until one day they quickly deserted the Gospel.  Yes, they deserted the Gospel.  They abandoned the simple message of Christ-crucified for the forgiveness of sins.

Now, to make sure that we understand what happened to these Christians, we need to understand what they did.  You see, these Galatian Christians did not exchange the Gospel for a different message, and they didn’t modify the Gospel, but instead, they actually ‘added’ to the Gospel.  In other words, they thought that Paul’s message of Jesus Christ as the beginning, middle, and end of salvation was too simple.  They believed that the message of the Gospel was incomplete – that it was lacking.  They believed that more needed to be said and done than what was originally proclaimed to them.  And so, they added to the Gospel, they insisted on Jesus ‘and’ ceremonial laws. 

Think of what happened in Galatia this way: the message of Jesus is a message with a period.  It is Jesus – period.  The period, following Jesus, communicates completeness and sufficiency.  However, the Christians in Galatia didn’t like the period.  And so, they replaced the period following Jesus, with a comma.  But why?  Well, it is relatively simple; they wanted to justify themselves.   

Dear friends, in our reading from the Gospel of Luke, we hear about a lawyer who wanted to justify himself as well.  The reason why?  He tried to make himself look good.  He wanted to be his own judge and to declare himself as good, right, and true because of what ‘he’ had done. 

That is the problem with human nature; we want to be the ones who justify ourselves.  We want to be our own Saviors.  That is why we don’t like a period after Jesus.  You see, we trust Jesus a lot, but we don’t trust Him alone, because we actually have an ungodly idolatrous trust in ourselves. 

Dear friends, we must keep in mind that the sixteenth-century Reformation (that we are descendants of) was not a battle over the Word, Faith, Grace, and Christ.  Everyone thought the Word was important.  Everyone agreed that faith was needed.  Everyone loved grace.  And everyone upheld Christ. 

So, why the fight?  Why the Reformation?  Why did everyone get so worked up? 

Well, there was a no-name German Monk in a small town named Wittenberg that dared to put a period after the Word, Faith, Grace, and Christ.  Yes, Martin Luther said that we need the Word and the Word alone, not the traditions, rules, and religious hot air of the Roman Catholic Church at that time.  That no-name monk said that the Christian was justified by grace, through faith, on account of Christ – alone.  No indulgencies needed.  No religious pilgrimages needed.  No relics, for all of these were additions to the Gospel.  By putting a period after the Gospel, Martin Luther was not only eliminating the comma but everything that the Roman Catholic Church had placed after the comma.  And as you know, when our projects, our legacies, and our little empires are downplayed, well… we get angry and fight to have the comma put back. 

Dear friends, it is quite simple, anytime that we add a comma after Jesus and start adding things after Jesus, we are attempting to subtract from Jesus and His work of the cross.  When we add to the Gospel by trying to add our religious endeavors, we are essentially saying, “Christ’s cross was not sufficient enough.  God did His best; I will do the rest!” 

It is more tempting to add to the Gospel than you and I might think.  You see, we live in an increasingly godless society and so we like to look for evidence of faith in Christians.  And so, we say to our neighbors that Jesus is enough to be a Christian, but then we want to validate their Christianity through something else other than Christ.  So, we judge a person’s Christianity upon the number of times we believe they need to pray. Or we judge their Christianity upon how they vote or how they dress or how they talk or how much they volunteer.  The point being, when salvation is conditioned on something else other than Jesus, well, we have stepped into the disastrous mess of Galatia.   

Frankly stated, we are na├»ve fools when we try to devise some religious system for getting by with our own efforts.  We are even bigger fools when we try to add to the Gospel, thinking that Jesus needs our help or that our own efforts can contribute anything to salvation.  And we dance with the devil when we judge and condemn our neighbor’s salvation based upon something that we have devised as necessary for salvation – something other than Jesus. 

Baptized Saints, repent of commas!  Yes, repent.  It is Jesus with a period, not a comma.  We are justified by grace, through faith, on account of Christ – ALONE! 

Matt Richard is and does nothing.  You do nothing.  The only thing we contribute to our salvation is our sin. Christ is your Justification.  Christ is the beginning, the middle, and the end – for you.  Jesus saved us, Jesus saves us, and Jesus will continue to save us!  As Christians, we need Jesus just as much today as we did yesterday and the day before.  And we have Jesus today, just as much as we had Him yesterday and the day before. 

Baptized Saints, our Christian identity and our Christian assurance is anchored here at St. Paul’s not in our building, not in our budget, not in our music, not in our boards, not in our social media platform, and not in your pastor, but in Christ.  Yes, as a church, our value, identity, and justification are anchored in Christ – period. 

The message of Christianity is a message of Jesus with a period.  Jesus is all that you need for forgiveness, life, and salvation. And that is what you are given from the absolution and the Lord’s Table today.  You are given Jesus!  And with Jesus, you receive His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  And that is enough.  Christ is complete and sufficient for you. 

In the name of Jesus, Jesus alone, Amen. 

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