By Dick Koehneke
Grace, faith, Scripture: These are the three core principles that were at the heart of the 16th century Reformation of the church that we celebrate this month. Let’s look at each one briefly to consider what it means, and how it works in our Christian faith and life.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace that came by Christ Jesus.” ~ Romans 3:23-24
Never pray this prayer: “God, give me what I deserve! I want what’s coming to me!” What’s coming to us sinners is death and damnation. That’s what we deserve for our willful, self-centered rebellion against our holy, loving God. Thank God we don’t get what’s coming to us.
God’s Son got what you and I deserve. The Father placed our sins upon Jesus. He credits the merits and holiness of Jesus to those who believe in His Son, and He gives us eternal life with Him. He loves us not because we deserve it, but because that’s who He is: Love.
God wants us to live graciously, not grudgingly. Real “gracious living” is not about the design and decoration of your home. Gracious living means treating others as God has treated you in Christ. Gracious living is rich in joy and peace and freedom. Grace really is amazing in more ways than one—as you receive it, and as you give it.
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” ~ Romans 3:22
The faith that works for life and salvation is faith in God’s Son Jesus Christ. We hear a lot of “faith talk” these days. Sometimes it sounds like this: “You just have to have faith.” In what? In whom? Often the answer sounds like this: “Trust yourself. Look inside for the answer.” No way. Whenever I look inside myself—deep inside—I don’t like what I see. It scares me. But then I remember the Word of God that says, “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation.” I’m so thankful that Jesus lives in me. My job every day is to get out of His way! Don’t trust yourself. Trust Jesus Christ!
Salvation comes by God’s grace through our Spirit-given faith, not by our works. So please stop beating up on yourself. Give yourself a break. As you trust in the Lord, rest in the Lord. If you are hard on other people because they aren’t as active and busy as you are, please stop being so self-righteous, OK? God is not impressed with your hectic schedule. He does not ask, “What’s on your calendar?” or “What’s in your wallet?” but “What’s in your heart?” Or even better: “Who’s in your heart? Does Jesus live there? Do you trust in my Son Jesus?” That’s faith.
“A righteousness from God, apart from Law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.” ~ Romans 3:21
How do we come to know the grace of God in Christ? Through Scripture, the Bible. How do we get the power to trust in Christ? The Holy Spirit works in our hearts through the Word of God. Martin Luther and his colleagues were very strong on this point because there were church traditions which had arisen over the centuries that were distracting people from God’s Word, and in some cases, were in opposition to the Scriptures.
Let’s talk about your personal traditions, and mine. By that I mean habits, customs, preferences, and comfort zones. Do you have a bad habit that you need to break to be more faithful and obedient to the Lord? Are there some good habits that I need to develop to enable me to walk more closely in the steps of Christ? What does your ongoing personal “re-formation” look like?
Are your personal customs helping you walk more closely with your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, or are they getting in the way? Are your preferences in alignment with God’s preferences? In other words, do you like what God likes? Are you and I sometimes more concerned with our comfort than with our faithfulness?
Let’s practice making our daily decisions based on the Word of God, not our habits and customs and preferences and comfort zones. Obey the commands of God. Trust the promises of God. Give God the last word in your decision-making.
GRACE, FAITH, SCRIPTURE: Three core principles of the 16th century Reformation of the church. These same principles are at the heart of the ongoing “re-formation” of every follower and friend of Jesus Christ, as God in His grace, through faith in His Son, working by His Word, transforms us more and more into the likeness of Christ, until that great, glorious, eternal day when we shall be perfectly like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.