Roger's Postings

Friday, October 29, 2010

Romans 3:19-28. Reformation of the Church 31/10/10

(19) Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. {20} Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. {21} But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. {22} This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, {23} for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, {24} and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. {25} God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- {26} he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. {27} Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. {28} For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

Today has been set aside for us to commemorate the Reformation of the Church. Traditionally, this has been a day when we have looked back with pride on our Lutheran heritage: at how people stood out against the odds and held to biblical teachings that are vitally important. In the past, we have sung the praises of Martin Luther and the work that he had done in reforming a church that had gone very much wrong. And yes, he was a great man, and did a great work, lead by God; which has stood us in good stead till now.

In the past, we have taken pride in the fact that we are a church that continues to hold firmly to Scripture and the teachings of the Bible: A church that has stressed the centrality of the Word and the Sacraments in the life of the Church. Yes, we were very proud to be Lutheran, and we fought very hard to maintain our Lutheran heritage.

It is here in our present time in this regard, however, that we need to keep in mind the message of our reading here which tells us that our righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Now that should make us stop and think about what we really are remembering today and what is important for us as we go forward as God’s people.
On the one hand, we are not to trust in our Lutheran church or we are standing for the very thing Luther fought against: the very thing this bible passage here speaks against. We are not justified: not made right with God by adhering to our Lutheran traditions as right as they might be. Remember the Pharisees and the Old Testament law. The law was good, but what the Pharisees made of it was all wrong. They put their trust in their keeping of the law and not in trusting the God who stood behind the Law.

That too, was the kind of thing Luther tried to correct in the church of his day. They again put their trust in their church; the pope and what he stood for: and they placed great importance on the things we do: on money being paid for God's forgiveness, and the like.

At the same time, Luther was equally concerned about those who did not take God and his Word very seriously at all. He had no time for those who chose to change God’s Word to suit their own way of thinking and who placed greater importance on themselves and their feelings and that kind of thing.

In all of this, he sought to ensure that the focus of our salvation and Christian life was not taken away from Jesus Christ and the cross, and placed elsewhere. He knew the absolute necessity of total trust in Jesus Christ alone and his work on the cross that our text here speaks of: Righteousness with God can not be gained by what we do, think or feel, but entirely by what Jesus has done for us. And we too need to see that our focus is in that very same place or we too are heading down the wrong track.

So, what is the situation for us here today? Where do we stand? Are we even concerned about what it means to be a true Christian: a Lutheran Christian? Are we here prepared to stand up for what is right and true? Or do we simply want to go along with the crowd and not take anything very seriously at all? Is our attitude like that of many today: she's right, we are all Christian; what does it matter, as long as what is done, is done in the name of Christian - whatever that might be? As long as we say we believe in God and go to church occasionally, wherever that might be, that is all that matters.

As we think of the Reformation and what Luther stood up for: as we think of this reading, and the whole book of Romans; we are left in no doubt, that we today need to be far more serious about all of this than is currently the case.

We very much need to reassess where we are at today and what we are standing for. The pressures and temptations are strong for us to not focus on these words here, but on other things that are not so important; and we are in grave danger of being lead down the wrong track. So we must beware, in case we too loose sight of the basics of the Christian faith. Again and again, we need to hear these words of St Paul; This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. We need to take these words to heart and integrate them into our lives.

This passage, along with many others, make it quite clear, that all have sinned and fall short of what God expects of us. Not one of us has any chance of getting to heaven if were not for Jesus Christ. If there is any reliance on us, even if in some minute way, then we are sunk; we have no hope - we just can't do it. Our works, decisions, living the good life, none of it will save us.

However, the thing is, we have been made right already, we are justified; freely, by the grace of God: His undeserving love that he extends to us. This all happened through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God presented him as a sacrifice, and made him to take the punishment that should have been ours. God in his justice had to punish all the sin of this world; and that punishment should have fallen on us as individuals. But no; God in his love for us sent his perfect Son Jesus to take that wrath of God on himself. So Jesus on the cross took all our sin on himself; removing it from each one of us; so that now when God looks at each one of us he sees the perfection of his Son. We are justified - we are right with God.

There is nothing we can do or have to do. All that is needed is for us to trust that Jesus has taken care of our salvation through his death on the cross: Looking to him as the one who has gotten us out of the mess that we are in. Believing that he has done all that is required for us to be accepted by God. Our faith in Jesus and what he has done for us, and our baptism, which joins us with him, makes us children of God for all eternity. There is now only one sin that will land us in trouble, and that is the sin of unbelief: The sin of not taking it all seriously: of seeing his forgiveness as a licence to do as we please.

But when we look to Jesus and his death on the cross, we are surely moved to love as he loves us. At the same time, we have no reason to fear: nothing to cause us to doubt. Whenever we are feeling low - uncertain of our salvation – all we need to do is look again to Jesus and trust that he has done everything necessary for our salvation. When we are tempted to think we need to help God out in this regard, we need to remember again that it has all been done for us: there is nothing more that we have to do. When our focus and pride turns toward ourselves, our gifts, our church; our heritage; we need to remind ourselves again that it is Jesus Christ alone who saves. Our only pride: our only trust: our only boast on this Reformation day, must be on Jesus, and on Jesus alone. That is what Luther and others struggled for: That is what I am here for and about: To maintain that we are right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ. He alone is our life and our salvation.

It is with that right understanding of what the Christian faith, and our Lutheran church, is all about, that we then have every reason to get out there and live our lives as true Christians. Prepared to stand up proudly for what is right and true: to let the world out there know that there is only one way to heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. Let this reformation take place in our lives again. Let each of us us stand firm in this conviction. Our righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe. Then this will be a true Reformation Day celebration. Then our church will be assured again of a strong future here in this community.

Yes, here again, we have every reason to be proud and to sing our praises on this day; but not in ourselves; not in our church and its heritage; but in Jesus Christ, and in him alone: Knowing and believing that he has done it all for us. Yes, let us fix our eyes firmly on our Lord and Saviour, now and always. AMEN.
Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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