By Faith Alone
Nearly everyone believes that God is happy just to know that people think about Him. That's how WE feel, isn't it? We appreciate that little card in the mail that says someone was thinking about us. Or that email greeting! Someone took the time to go to Hallmark or some website and fill out something and hit a button. They were thinking of us.
Since we feel better knowing people think of us, we somehow think it makes God's day to know that people here have feelings in their hearts toward Him. We know He's there. We're all for God! In fact, just let somebody take His name off of our currency, out of our schools, or from our Pledge, and we're steaming! Right?
God does not NEED a fan club, dear people. He is not like we are, impressed by the good thoughts we have of Him. He has created us so that He may freely shower us with His Fatherly care and mercy. He created us so that He might be glorified in this world as we bear His Holy Name and serve one another in love. But God doesn't NEED a fan club. He is not so insecure.
Maybe you can understand why hell is full of people who believed God was somehow moved because He saw that they were on His side. They thought the world of Him, and so they expected He would return the favor.
Read Matthew 7:21-23 and Matthew 25:11-12.
Everyone believes. Most people are big fans of "God." That won't save a soul! Our Lord says that it's not our knowing or loving or believing in Him that saves. It's His knowing us. It's His knowing our sins as His own because He took them on Himself. It's His knowing our sins as forgiven because He died for them on a tree. It's His knowing us as His Baptized, Absolved and Body and Blood children.
He knows where He has placed Himself for our salvation.
He knows all who are there - in the Word and the Sacraments of Jesus!
When we Lutherans say that we are saved "by faith alone," we don't mean that we are saved BECAUSE of our faith! Far from it! We mean that we are saved solely by God's grace for Christ's sake. This is given to us first from above, and THEN, as God's New Creations in Christ, we begin to actively trust in and look to God as His dear children.
Please be careful not to turn faith into the one good work which you must do in order to be saved. That takes away from Jesus. The Truth is, faith in Christ is a gift which God gives us.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8)
The early Church taught that faith is first of all GOD'S gift to US.
"Let us think nothing our own, seeing even faith is not our own, but more God's (than ours). 'For by grace are ye saved through faith, and this,' saith he, 'not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.'" (Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily XXX: Acts XIII.42)
"For even this, to be saved by faith, is not saith he, of yourselves; for ye did not first draw near, but were called; so that not even this small matter is yours altogether. However, though you had drawn near, accountable as you are for innumerable wickednesses, not even so would the grace be yours, but God's. Hence also, writing to the Ephesians, he said, (Eph. 2:8) 'By grace have ye been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves;' not even the faith is yours altogether, for ye were not first with your belief, but obeyed a call." (Chrysostom, Homilies on First Corinthians, Homily I: 1 Cor. i 1-3)
We Lutherans teach the same!
"I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith." (The Small Catechism, Third Article of the Creed)
The Faith that saves us is, first of all, the Gospel; namely, that God the Father loved the world like this . . . He gave His Only Son, and Jesus died the death we all deserve. He rose from the dead, and now, seated at the right hand of the Father, He is present and active in and through His Church. In this Church, the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, sanctifies and keeps us with Jesus Christ in the one true Faith.
The Faith that saves us is the Faith that we are IN, namely, the Holy catholic and Apostolic Faith! That is the Faith "once delivered to the saints" by Christ Himself and passed down through the ages by His Church. Read Jude 1:3. It is the Gospel purely preached and the Sacraments administered as Christ instituted them. By this Ministry, the Holy Spirit works faith, when and where He pleases, in those who hear the Gospel.
Click here to see "Faith Says: Our Father" - the 3rd in these explanations of what Lutherans believe.
Want to talk to Pastor Sawyer about the Christian Faith? Give him a call at (601) 992-4752, or email him. He's got Good News for you, and will wrap you up in Jesus!