Let us pray: Dear Savior, as the Word of God made flesh You came and lived among us. You came to bring the blessings of heaven down to us in bodily form—the unconditional love and forgiveness that You personified. And then You made them our very own possession by working faith in our hearts through the power of Your Word. For those gifts we offer you our thanks, praise, hearts, hands, and voices. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF FAITH AND ETERNAL SALVATION!
TEXT: Romans 10: 8-13
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Why are you a Lutheran Christian and not a Roman Catholic, or an evangelical, or a member of a reformed church? Humanly speaking there are a lot of reasons. Some of you were simply raised Lutheran and never learned anything different. Others of you came out of the abovementioned Christian traditions and found Lutheranism more welcoming. For here God’s grace was emphasized over human feelings, emotions, or traditions.
Perhaps you’ve never thought much about it, but other theological systems of thinking rap traditional Lutherans in various ways. Both the Roman Catholic and evangelical churches say in their official creeds that we Lutherans don’t emphasize the Christian life enough. They say that we make salvation too easy. “If Christ did everything to earn our salvation, what’s the incentive for us to shun sin and live a holy life? If you don’t have to actively seek after God and somehow earn His favor doesn’t that promote spiritual laziness?” Many other church bodies would also say that Lutherans know a lot of facts from the Bible, but that their faith is too cerebral and doesn’t seem to have much of an emotional component. They say that our liturgy is too dry, our sermons emphasize forgiveness rather than how to live a more holy life, and that we’re boring.
Obviously, I beg to differ. St. Paul begs to differ. And even Christ would beg to differ. In the verses preceding our text, St. Paul under the Spirit’s inspiration says this: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought (instead) to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (In other words, not well-intentioned human efforts of any kind but God-wrought faith alone saves.) Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The man who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But, what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
After carefully studying all the major religions of the world and all the various branches of Christianity out there, I’m a Lutheran and thankful for it! That’s because:
BEING A LUTHERAN GIVES ALL GLORY TO GOD!
As I read our lesson, did you notice how St. Paul emphasizes knowledge above feelings or emotions? The chief problem of most religious people is that they view faith as an emotion. The problem is that emotions are human centered and thus tainted by sin. One minute we’re up and the next we’re down. Does that mean God doesn’t love us? Does that mean our faith is somehow false or misplaced? Many pious religious people conclude that and thus they walk away altogether.
Since we’re all born sinful, naturally we all are born with an inbred sense of guilt before our Creator. And what is the one way to assuage guilt, to take it away? You know the answer. It is to work very hard at being the best you can be and to offer God all your well-intentioned good deeds, to make yourself worthy of His love. That’s what guilt-ridden parents do to their children and vice-versa. Again, the problem with that is that either you remain guilt-ridden because you know you’ve never done enough, or you become very self-righteous in that you actually begin to believe in your own goodness.—Think of the Pharisees of Christ’s time and you’ll get the point. In either event, the word of God’s perfect law still condemns us because it says: “You’re not perfect enough and never will be on your own.” And any attempt to win God’s favor ends up subtracting from His honor because then life is all about you and not about God.
No, God does everything for us. In pure love He saw our predicament. He saw the rock of our pride. And He overcame the guilt it brings by sending us Christ. We didn’t ask for the Word made flesh. But our loving God sent Him. And Christ freely won peace with God for us by triumphing over all sin and temptation in life and by dying in our place on a cross. And then Christ physically arose from the grave to prove to us that before God Almighty we’re totally cleansed in His sight! This knowledge God then made our personal possession by giving us the gift of faith. He did that by means of the Word that is nigh, close by, the message of the gospel and the sacraments. He didn’t leave anything up to us when it came to saving our souls. He did everything. He does everything. He even enables us to confess Christ with our mouths, as Paul writes in Corinthians “No one can say (of their own) Jesus is Lord, except by the (power of) the Holy Ghost.” Yes, Christ the Word made flesh is nigh, present—in the waters of your baptism, in the bread and wine of His supper, and in the message of the cross. So, everything revolves around Him and His goodness freely given to you and me.
We Lutherans emphasize all these truths. We preach them Sunday after Sunday. We hand out the sacraments each month to solidify you in them. All this to take away your guilt and shame before God. All this to comfort you when temptations come and doubt surfaces in your minds. In every case we seek to lead you away from trusting in yourself or your emotions and lead you back to trusting in God’s grace—thereby giving Him all the glory.
And so Paul concludes by quoting Isaiah: “As the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, quoting the prophet Joel, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
It is tremendously comforting to know that it doesn’t matter what your lineage is, or what branch of Christianity you come from—salvation rests in God’s hands alone and He offers it to all people. Nonetheless, you can save yourself a lot of second-guessing and apprehension in life by being a Lutheran. For we come the closest of any other denomination to giving God total glory. And for that we should be thankful, humble, and truly appreciative for our Lutheran heritage! Now armed with such knowledge hopefully you will look with fresh eyes upon our liturgy and hear with fresh ears the sermons preached in our midst—in them the Lord is nigh! For in the end, isn’t the point of Christianity to give all glory to God for our salvation? Amen