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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Small Catechism – part 150

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From the Word: 18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, “Good Teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20 You know the commandments: do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother.” 21 And he said, “I have observed all these things since my youth.” 22 And when Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me. (Luke 18:18–22)

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism

The Third Article

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,* the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen

What does this mean?

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith. In the same way, he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and preserves it in unity with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church, he daily forgives abundantly all my sins and the sins of all believers; and at the last day, he will raise me and all the dead and will grant everlasting life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true!

*or “holy Christian Church” (“catholic” here refers to the fellowship of all believing Christians)

Pulling It Together: Jesus still calls. He beckons us to come to him from out of the darkness. Jesus calls us from the darkness of dependence upon anything but himself. Such is the case with the ruler in today’s reading. He would gain eternal life on his own. “What must I do?” he inquired, as if thinking that the keeping of the commandments or some other moralistic housekeeping was the trick. So Jesus gave him a very hard thing to do, hoping to show him that he could not perform it, and that he must depend upon a greater goodness than himself.

The ruler does not seem to comprehend Jesus’ real teaching, nor do the others who heard, imagining heaven an impossibility if one must sell everything and give it to the poor. Let us be clear: Jesus did not assign a good work to be performed in order to snatch eternity from the grasp of God. The point Jesus made to the ruler—and is making to you and me—is that no one can depend on their goodness or deeds in order to obtain eternal life. But we may depend upon Jesus.

Therefore, we should follow him, not a trail of our own actions. For we are preserved in unity with Jesus Christ by following him, which is tantamount to being in the one true faith. When instead, our steps correspond to our deeds, we are out of step with Jesus.

Prayer: Give me the courage to follow you, Jesus, even if it means I give up all else. Amen.

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The goal of Personalities of Faith, a ten-session Bible study for youth, is to encourage young people to commit themselves to follow Jesus in discipleship by becoming "personalities of faith". Using biblical examples of people who have followed—or failed to follow—God's call, participants will be prepared to better follow the Lord in their own lives.

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