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August 21, 2017

August 21, 2017

"Faith Alone, Grace Alone"


“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV


As we come up on the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, I’ve had Luther on my mind. I grew up Lutheran, and even attended Lutheran schools, and we were taught that we could summarize much of what it meant to be Lutheran as “Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone.” The passage from Ephesians, above, which explains the grace alone and faith alone, is one of the first I remember learning, and it has stayed with me all my life. 

Have you ever had one of those times when you’ve done the wrong thing—again? You can’t believe the unkind or unfair thing that popped out of your mouth? Or the temptation you fell into yet again, after telling yourself you’d never do that again? Or there’s something that you absolutely know in your heart you should do, but you just can’t seem to bring yourself to do it? I have, too many times. So had Luther. So had the apostle Paul: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19 NIV)

Luther knew he wasn’t good enough for God. He prayed, and he fasted, and he punished himself. Yet he kept sinning, kept breaking the Law. He could never achieve salvation. But while reading and studying the scripture, Luther came to the realization that none of us can save ourselves. We can’t work our way into God’s love by any good works on our part. It’s ridiculous to think that we can earn our salvation. 

This is what Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith…” It’s God’s grace, God’s redemptive love that saves us. And that salvation comes to us through faith, not our own merit, “not by works." 

This is the miracle of God’s love. I know I am a “poor, miserable sinner.” I break the Law through “what I have done, and what I have left undone.” I stand convicted every single day. I know I don’t deserve to be loved, don’t deserve God’s grace, and yet it is given to me, and to you, freely. We have the joy and peace of being loved unconditionally and undeservedly. 

Luther wrote, “When I discovered that, I was born again of the Holy Ghost. And the doors of paradise swung open, and I walked through.”

May we walk through those doors with joy today.

Peace,


Jenny

P.S.:  A thanks to Jenny Tessendorf Khan for writing our devotions this week.  Roxann and I are just getting back from a celebration of my brother and sister-in-law’s 50th Anniversary in Indiana.  Jenny’s devotions are a wonderful gift to us.  

Jenny is a member of our Board of Elders.  She teaches Economics at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, where her husband, Feisal, also teaches in the same department.  They are the parents of Melanie and Merrick and live here in Canandaigua