“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” ~ 1 Cor.6:19-20

If you skipped them, read the two theme verses for today. (Hopefully, you recognize it as one of our two memory verses for the week.) These words from the apostle Paul powerfully capture the hope to be found in Jesus’ death and resurrection for someone lost in sinful behaviors that he or she can’t shake.

The first verse points to the resurrection. Because Jesus is alive, his very Spirit indwells the believer. My body is a temple is which God himself resides. We have observed in past readings how our first parents enjoyed God’s real presence in the Garden. They enjoyed a daily “walkabout” with God where they talked and shared together. While this is not that, at least as fully and visibly as Adam and Eve experienced it, Christ’s Spirit within us is nonetheless a real step in that direction. Next week’s readings will be devoted to discussing the “walkabout” a Christian can enjoy with God – how to nurture it, grow in it, and the difference it can make in helping us overcome our sin nature.

The second verse points to Jesus’ death. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price,” Paul writes. “Therefore honor God with your body.” There is an idea here which, when we grasp it, is one of most powerful incentives to living rightly that exists. I can think of no better way to conclude this week of readings than unpacking this idea. Because if this doesn’t move you to pursue holiness and purity, then it’s doubtful that anything can.

There are only a few movie scenes over the years which have made me cry. Kevin Costner playing catch with his dad. Chance, Shadow and Sassy running over that last hill into their owners’ arms. Aragorn saying to the hobbits, “Friends, you bow to no one.” Blowing up that blasted shark.

But the tears really start to flow every time I come to the end of Saving Private Ryan. Tom Hank’s character Captain John Miller is sitting on the ground, his life ebbing away after being shot in battle. The young private he and his men have risked all to save and restore to his family – Matt Damon’s James Ryan – is kneeling before him. The battle is won, the mission accomplished, Ryan is safe and going home.

Just before Captain Miller draws his last breath, he pulls Private Ryan close and says to him, “James, you earn this.”

The film fast-forwards to the present day where the elderly Ryan is kneeling before the white cross where Miller is buried in Normandy, with his family looking on behind him. “Every day I think about what you said to me on that bridge,” Ryan says. “I’ve tried to live my life the best I could.” When his wife approaches, Ryan takes her arm and looks desperately into her eyes and says, “Tell me I’ve led a good life. Tell me I’m a good man.”

I cried the first time I saw that scene, and I’m letting enough tears loose as I write to short out my computer should I lean over it. I just can’t get over the power of this scene, which is more than a scene – it is reenacted in real life over and over again – from the present day, back to the Persian Gulf, back to Vietnam, back to World War II, back to every war that’s been fought where one has given his life for the freedom of another.

Back 2,000 years to the greatest battle that was ever fought – the battle against evil waged by the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ, as his own tortured body lay spread out, nailed to that splintered cross. It took Steven Spielberg to show me the real power of what Christians call the ‘atonement’ – the price paid to restore a rebellious human being to his or her heavenly Father.

Now think about it. What did Miller mean when he said to Ryan, “Earn this?” Earn his freedom? No. That was earned for him by Miller’s sacrifice. It was a gift of grace Ryan could only receive. In those two words, Miller was saying, “James, when you go home, you so live your life that my death for you will not have been wasted. Don’t you dare throw this gift I’m giving you away.”

Porn addict at his computerI wonder what all those young 20 and 21-year-old men who have died in the past century’s wars think as they look down on our nation from eternity. Men like my great-uncle Melvin whose plane was shot down over France – men who never got to make love to a woman or wrestle on the floor with their children or take cross-country vacations. What do they think when they see men huddled over computer screens in darkened corners? And fatherless teens roaming city streets and malls in packs? And TVs pumping out nightly sewage of the kind of violence and lewdness that would have made their generation blush? (What are we up to now – CSI Des Moines yet?) Could any of them be forgiven for thinking to themselves: “We died for this?”

Perhaps as you’ve been mulling over the last couple days of readings, you’ve been wondering to yourself that if being good cannot save us, but only trusting in Christ’s death, then why be good? Read the words again; perhaps say them aloud:

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

In other words, you earn this. Jesus’ sacrifice alone should radically infuse your heart with the determination to live rightly.

Yet sadly, there are not a few Christians who think that Jesus’ death on the cross now gives them license to sin their heads off. They tell themselves that their sins are forgiven and that there is not one thing they could add to Jesus’ sacrifice – and all that is true. Yet they proceed then in the name of “grace”, to let their lives slip into sloppiness and sloth. Dietrich Bonfoeffer, a German pastor who knew something of sacrifice himself (he died a martyr in one of Hitler’s prisons), coined a phrase for such thinking: Cheap Grace.

In fairness, it can be a fine needle to thread. One of the outcomes of Christ’s death is that I am now given the space and time to work out a salvation that is already in my possession, (which is where the idea of training comes in – our focus in week 4). What’s more, I don’t have to worry about the fact that if I mess up today, I’m out of the kingdom and if I perform well tomorrow, I’m back in. Christianity doesn’t work like that.

Jesus life, death and resurrection is the most amazing gift you and I will ever be given. It takes all the pressure off of having to measure up right this very moment to God’s standards. Jesus already did the measuring up. His obedience counts for me. And his death counts for me. Jesus did what I never could do – he lived a perfect life, then gave his perfect life in exchange for my imperfect one, and secured for me God’s radical acceptance.

But we mustn’t stretch grace too far, or it will snap. The Cross of Jesus never grants us permission to sin. It only makes room for the possibility of it occurring. Holiness is God’s absolute standard, and without it no one will ever see God (Hebrews 12:14). Sexual purity is not just for extra credit – a mistake many Christians make, who have bought into a deficient view of what it means to be saved by grace. Having saved me from my sins, Christ now intends to save me from my sinning.

I’m not the first to say this, but the greatest problem when we get sin-stuck is not that we love our sin too much, but really it’s that we love Christ too little.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The greatest purity strategy that exists is to allow your heart to become so filled by a love for Jesus, for all he has done for you, that the very thought of giving in to sin becomes not only detestable but heart-breaking.

 For Reflection

What ideas in this reading did you find helpful or challenging?

 

Describe what you think Dietrich Bonhoeffer meant by the words “cheap grace”.

 

Take ten minutes today to write a card or make a phone call thanking a veteran from your community for their sacrifice and service.

 

Prayer and Worship

“Father, I thank you for…”

“Father, please help me with…”

“Father, please be with…”

“In the name of Jesus, who died for my sins, who rose from the dead and who is with me now through the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

 

Today’s Worship Suggestion: “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” (Isaac Watts)

 

 This Week’s Memory Verses

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” ~ Galatians 2:20

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.” ~ 1 Cor.6:19-20

To Return To Day 13 Click Here
To Read The Intro To Week 3 Click Here