When Dr Martin Luther started to raise issues with the Roman Catholic Church (remember he was an Augustinian monk), he wasn’t trying to undermine the church, he was trying to reconcile his Biblical studies and the teachings of the church. The church emphasized what we are supposed to do in order to be “worthy” of salvation. Dr Luther said, No! What can we add to what Jesus did? He was the sacrifice that paid for our sins. What else can we add through anything we could do to Jesus’ full payment for our sins? Are we fully forgiven in Jesus? Yes, we know Him as our Savior, we are baptized into new life in Jesus, we take His Body and Blood, we hear His preached word, we are saved. We are led to salvation by the Holy Spirit, not by anything we do. All of these things are given to us as part of the Body of Christ, His church. We receive baptism, we receive His Body and Blood, we receive/hear His preached Word. Nothing we did, all of what He did.
Dr Luther tries to lead the Christian church back to the original understanding that we are only forgiven and saved in what Jesus does, nothing that we do. Do we do good works? Absolutely, but these are works that are done through us by the Holy Spirit. Any works we do don’t get us any more saved. When we are baptized, the old/dead man is drowned and we are born again, we are a new creature in Jesus. We are now children of God the Father and are His. Nothing that we did, everything that Father, Son and Holy Spirit did for us.
So there were new Christian churches, teaching and preaching that we are wholly saved by what Jesus does and nothing about what we do. But along comes these Americanized Christians who decide that there must be something that we need to add to Jesus’ works in order to assure us of our salvation. “Yet with salvation comes the responsibility to work out our salvation.” (Henry, Richard Blackaby Experiencing God Day by Day p 205). This is referred to as “works righteousness” in other words, it’s our works that make us righteous in addition to what Jesus did. There has to be both what Jesus did and what we add to that.The Blackaby’s are great Christian brothers, but there are too many in Christiandom that continue to try to stress what we do and undercut what Jesus has done and does do for His people. The extreme examples being Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who try to put our salvation entirely on our efforts and try to undercut Jesus entirely. I’ve always wanted to ask one of them, what if I am just not capable of doing anything? Then what? Too bad for me?
In the July 17 devotional (p 199), the issue is that not only are there works that need to be done by us, but we also seem to achieve almost sinlessness. Don’t get me wrong, I am not preaching antinomianism (the belief that since we’re saved in Jesus, then we can pretty much sin at will because our forgiveness is already assured because of our redemption in Jesus). Reality is this, we are never going to be sinless, we just aren’t. Sure I hope that in Jesus the Holy Spirit is going to make me completely pure, holy and sinless. I am completely righteous through Jesus! But I’m not through me, or some bizarre idea that I have achieved sinless perfection. I’m just never going to make that level
The Blackaby’s say “It is exhilarating to be set apart by God, knowing that God observes your consecrated life and is pleased with what He sees.” Sure, absolutely! I do want to lead a God pleasing life and I should not be committing gratuitous sins. But the fact of the matter is that I will be. At the beginning of every Lutheran worship we start with Confession and Absolution. Well if we have just been perfect in our selves for the past week, what do we need that for? Because the reality is that we need forgiveness, as often as possible. We aren’t going to make it through a week without sin. Sure sometimes they’re acts of omission vs commission, but sin nonetheless and we want to be absolved, to be forgiven and not by virtue of having “a special place in God’s heart!” We do! By virtue of what Jesus did, nothing we’ve done. Not by virtue of our works or our sinlessness, solely through redemption in Jesus’ sacrifice.
I’ve talked to many people who have experienced Reformed Christianity (various types of Calvinism, Arminianism), that feel they’ve had to jump through hoops to be “saved”. There’s of course the “accepting” Jesus, Walking down the aisle during worship to declare that you have some how “chosen” Jesus. Ya…, no! “You didn’t chose me, I chose you.” Jesus tells us. Martin Luther put it forthrightly, you are saved by grace, sola gratia, nothing you did, everything Jesus did. Stop fretting whether you’ve done enough works, or too much sin. Jesus died for your sins, you are saved in Him. If He has chosen you to be saved, you are saved! Done deal, lead pipe guarantee, nothing you did, everything He did. That should be incredibly reassuring. If God has done it, it’s done! If part of it is up to us, oh boy, that is a problem! It’s not, you’re saved in Him. Not in you. Praise God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for that! Sola Fide, Sola gratia, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christi. If you don’t know what that means drop me a message.