Let us pray: Lord, thank You for the treasure of Your gospel! Thank You for freely loving us and forgiving us in and through Christ’s blood. May we ever glory in the fact that all aspects of our faith and life revolve around You and that all our comfort comes from You. For Your comfort never, ever, disappoints! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF THE CHURCH AND THE LORD OF OUR LIVES!
TEXT: Romans 5: 1,2: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
Fellow Redeemed Humbled Sinners:
Today we have heard a brief history of the Lutheran Reformation. Hopefully it has left us with a sense of awe at God’s goodness toward His people and also a sense of humility and thankfulness over the heritage of Godly truth with which we have been blest. I want to briefly outline for you the distinctiveness of our Lutheran heritage gauged against other Christian strains and hopefully this little refresher course will drive home this truth:
REFORMATION BEGINS WITH YOU!
The Roman church hasn’t changed their tune in any substantial way since the time of Dr. Luther. They still sell indulgences for sins, thereby putting a human price-tag on Christ’s forgiveness and cheapening His work on the cross. They still motivate people by guilt, by the Law, instead of by grace alone. We see that in their system of penance.—“You say so many rosaries, or Hail Mary’s, you go out and engage in various acts of piety and then, perhaps, Christ will dole out a portion of His love to you.” No, my friends, Christ doles it out freely and completely to us through faith! He did everything when it came to saving our souls. And what a comfort it is to know that when our consciences condemn us! Guilt motivation?—No way! For as Isaiah says: “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all!”
Dr. Luther ignited a firestorm of religious/political upheaval in Europe with his call to reform the organized church. Two other groups, both alive and active today, also took part in that climate of religious and social change. And both groups in their official teachings rob the downtrodden sinner of lasting comfort.
First, there are the various “reformed” churches which follow John Calvin, the Swiss reformer. They officially teach that Christ died on the cross only for the elect and not for all. So, the only way for you to know that your sins are forgiven is by looking to your faith and having faith in that faith instead of in Christ. Where’s the comfort and Godly strength when your faith is weak and when you’re unsure of your own goodness? Yes, if you look for Divine goodness in humans and in their actions, you’re also looking away from your Savior. These same folks don’t view the sacraments as vehicles of forgiveness or as God’s reality of the gospel among us. No, they view them as mere symbols thereby playing on our emotions. But emotions are fickle. They sway up and down, hot and cold. No, we need real forgiveness, not a symbol, in order to receive and know the grace in which we now stand.
The second group that arose during the reformation were called the: Anabaptists or –re-baptizers. By that they discounted the validity of infant baptism and talked of being: born again of the Spirit through some sort of life experience. But how do you know if that experience was from God or from Satan? You don’t. For Satan can disguise himself as an “angel of light” as Scripture says. No, we need the objective truth of sacramental theology in order to be able to rely on something outside ourselves and sent directly from God as He outlines in His Word. Today the modern Evangelicals can be traced to the Anabaptists. Do you ever wonder why your friends who attend such churches are always so busy doing things for the Lord? It is because they find validity for their faith in their pious actions, instead of in God’s actions handed to them through Word and sacrament. Such people run scared in that they are never truly certain of God’s love for them because they always look at their lives for such assurances and unfortunately see sin.
Of course, not all Lutherans are the same, either. And if Dr. Luther came to America today he wouldn’t recognize many churches that bear his name. (By the way, he didn’t want people to call themselves: Lutheran, either. He thought that a bit presumptuous. He was a humble man, just as John the Baptist who said: “Christ must increase, but I must decrease.”) Anyway, most modern Lutherans have imbibed from the liberal well of watering-down the Bible and second-guessing it. From an objective point of view, when you question the miracles, mock the truth of the resurrection, and call the commandments suggestions, as they do, you have nothing Divine left other than feeling good about yourself by engaging in social action programs. These modern liberals have reduced God’s gospel down to a generic motto: God is love. A motto that even the Unitarians, Buddhists, and other non-Christian groups can agree with. So, if Dr. Luther came back today, where would he feel at home? Right here at Pinewood. Right here in our synod. Why do I say that with certitude? Because here we believe, teach, and confess the chief truth of the Reformation. The truth which Christ died for, the truth which Luther lived by: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
What does that passage mean? It means that God sent His Son, Jesus, to pay for all our sins—our lies, our lust, our greedy nature, our inner and outer jealous anger at others, our pride, our selfishness—all sins. Christ died on the cross for all such sins and His Father accepted that perfect, holy sacrifice. Moreover, that sacrifice is imputed, given freely, to each of us. All human beings are redeemed by Christ. All sins are paid for. All have been declared: not guilty by God because of Christ! And to make sure that gift of grace hits home and becomes our personal possession, God has given it to us by working faith in our hearts, humble trust, through the message of the gospel and through baptism and the holy supper, His living gospel. Yes, you and I stand at total peace with God. Gone is the guilty conscience. Gone is fear over our future. Gone is worry about heaven. For we have total peace with God in Christ. This is what that word: Justified means. And His gift of faith, not of our emotional attachment, or sometimes lack of it, also means we now stand squarely under the umbrella of His undeserved love. Sin, Satan, our flesh, the world—nothing can diminish His undying love for us! It’s a truth bigger than our feelings!
I started out by saying: Reformation begins with you! Indeed it does. For you can either reject His truths and His love, or accept them with humility and joy. None of us is “better” than another. We dare never succumb to self-righteousness in the face of God’s gift of peace. For He did it all.—He’s the potter and we’re the clay. May we joyfully share that message with all we meet keeping in mind that He “humbles the proud” and “exalts the humble.” Amen