Slides provided by: www.envisionworship.com
Your Grace is Enough by Matt Maher© 2003 Thankyou Music, CCLI Song # 4477026 CCLI License # 823932
WeWalk by Faith By Henry Alford and Joseph M. Martin © 2008, The Lorenz Corporation CCLI Song# 5197240, CCLI License # 823932
Amazing Grace by Chris Tomlin, John Newton and Louie Giglio © 2006 sixstep Music CCLI Song # 4768151, CCLI License: 823932
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[j] call of God in Christ Jesus.
The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to G-d.
Martin Luther is known as one of the great reformers, but before he became a reformer, he was a Catholic Monk. And as a Monk, Luther was overwhelmed with feelings of guilt. He was so worried that G-d was always angry at him. No matter what he did, or how hard he tried- he would still sin. He was jealous of another monk’s abilities…he got frustrated with someone…The other monks would occasionally go to confession and confess their sins, but Martin Luther went every day, sometimes up to six hours. Every little thought that might have been imperfect he obsessed over. He lived in a state of constant fear- he was so scared of G-d. He was so troubled that he developed health problems. And so the leader of the monastery encouraged Luther to read less theology and really spend some time reading the Bible. And so, he did, and he became incredibly moved by the New Testament, the stories and verses of Jesus loving those who were not perfect, and the writing of the early disciples and how much they focused on faith and grace. And his life was transformed and he was set free and he started to know a G-d of love and mercy and grace. This is the G-d we find in scripture.
Luther (the great reformer from 500 years ago) and Paul (the early Christian who wrote many of the letters of the New Testament) are very similar in that they both started in traditional religious orders that loved G-d but were obsessed with sin. They both thought that they could somehow earn G-d’s love if they followed all these rules and never sinned. We heard Paul talk about this in the scripture passage we just read from Philippians. That he had followed all the rules. He was a Pharisee. And a pharisee was committed to following all the rules as a way of showing devotion to G-d. And if someone was not following the rules of the Torah to their standard, they were punished. And because of this they persecuted and killed many of the early followers of Jesus. In fact, Acts 22 tells of Paul’s conversion and not only his conversion but that before he became a Christian he had held the coats of the people who stoned the disciple Stephen to death for his belief in Christ. That he approved and supported such a practice. But then he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. And his life was transformed and he became the author of many of the books of the New Testament that are focused on grace and faith in Christ. He went from being a persecutor of Christians to a Christian who was willing to be persecuted because of his faith in Christ. We studied the story of Paul’s conversion and meeting the risen Lord in Acts 22 on Easter, and if you would like to know more about it, I encourage you to read Acts 22 and go watch our Easter Service.
A lot of our reformed theology comes from Paul’s writings. In fact, we have three phrases that Luther identified that help define our faith, and these come from Jesus’ life and Paul’s writings, and Paul’s student’s writings. They are, “Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.”
“Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.”
And what do they mean? Well they mean that our beliefs come from Scripture, that the words of the Bible are authoritative and how we can come to know G-d. This can be seen in Luther’s life, which we heard about earlier. He was being made to think that he had to earn his way to G-d’s love because of Church Doctrine. But then through scripture, he found grace. So “Scripture Alone” is important in teaching us G-d’s way. Then there is Faith Alone, which we heard about in our scripture passage for today.
Verse 9 reads; “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.” This is also seen throughout the Gospels, often after Jesus heals a person he tells them, “your faith has made you well” or “your faith has healed you.” Though faith in Christ we are transformed. Through faith, we are enabled to leap and do great things in the Lord.
Without faith, our discipleship is severely stunted. Now, how does this connect to serving G-d? Because serving G-d is about doing G-d’s work, but as Luther and Paul remind us, faith is what saves us. Not work. Luther addressed this when he wrote;
“Good works have always been valued more highly than faith. Of course, it’s true that we should do good works and respect the importance of them. But we should be careful that we don’t elevate good works to such an extent that faith and Christ become secondary. If we esteem them too highly, good works can become the greatest idolatry. This has occurred both inside and outside of Christianity. Some people value good works so much that they overlook faith in Christ. They preach about and praise their own works instead of God’s works.”― Martin Luther, Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional
In the book, Spiritual Misfits; A Memoir of Uneasy Faith by Michelle DeRusha she addresses how Faith’s relationship to work, but how work does not save us but faith allows us to do the work of G-d and see G-d at work. She writes;
“One day I noticed on the church bulletin that a local faith- based educational program was looking for reading tutors to volunteer at a low-income elementary school in Lincoln. I e-mailed the program director and registered not only myself, but (my husband) Brad too, volunteering us each for one short session a week at the reading center.
Signing up was great; we were both excited and committed. But I’ll be honest. Tutoring a fidgety second-grader at the end of a long day while he picked his nose, fell of his chair twice in ten minutes and read with as much emotional expression as Winston Churchill was not glamorous work. I had to resist glancing at my watch every 3.5 seconds, despite the fact that each session lasted less than forty minutes…Why was I sitting with Samuel during those forty minutes each week? Because of this: joy, pride, success, possibility, connection, promise and hope.
It didn’t matter that Samuel himself didn’t articulate that glee. When I felt joy surge in my heart, the message was clear: This wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about proving to myself that my faith made a difference. And it wasn’t solely about Samuel either. Those forty minutes Samuel and I spent together weren’t about what either of us gained individually from the experience- how many words he read- or how many minutes of my time I sacrificed or how deep my faith was. It was about relationship, human connection, and love.
Because I am by nature a concrete person, putting my faith into action in my greater community grew my faith in ways that sitting in a church could not. I may never be an emotional, heart-on-my-sleeve kind of believer, but service to and with my community is a way for me to express and experience G-d’s love in a concrete, tangible way.” From Spiritual Misfits; A Memoir of Uneasy Faith by Michelle DeRusha
So we have talked about Scripture Alone, and Faith Alone, as tenants of the reformed faith, and key parts if Paul’s theology, and the last one Luther identified is Grace alone. And this one we heard about earlier. That revelation that Martin Luther the monk had that transformed his life. That he cannot save himself, that we can’t live sinless lives and we can’t be perfect, but the grace of G-d overs our mistakes. We find this in the Gospel stories were someone who is a “sinner” comes to Christ and are told they are forgiven. And we see this in the writings of Paul and Paul’s students. In Romans 4:16, Paul writes, 16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us.)” And Romans 11:6 adds, 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, sometimes at first glance; it almost seems that grace alone and faith alone would cancel each other out. I’ve at times found this rather confusing. And especially because each of these has the phrase alone attached to it, so how are there three of them? Did the reformers not understand what the word alone means? Which is it? Grace alone? Faith alone? Scripture alone? But the reason Martin Luther wrote them this way, is because he was writing them based off of Paul’s theology and Biblical writings and they were written in direct response to things Luther was confronting. So for example, the Catholic Church was teaching that people were saved through works and faith, and Luther wanted to clarify that it is faith and not works. That it is faith alone. And the Church at the time was teaching that we are saved through doctrine and Luther wanted to clarify that no, we are saved through Scripture and in that Scripture the Christ we come to know. And the Church was teaching that it was merit that saved us, and Luther wanted to direct our focus and gratitude to grace as what and who saves us. We can see how this directly relates to Paul and his student’s writings, Ephesians 2:8-10 reads, “For by grace by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of G-d—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which G-d prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” Now I think it’s important to note, that the Catholic Church did change some of their views and teachings on these matters after the reformation. But Grace and Faith alone are significant in demonstrating to us what Christian Faith and Religion us about. In Philip Yancy’s book, What’s so Amazing about Grace? (Zondervan, 1997) he writes;
“During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.
The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about? He asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contributions among world religions. Lewis responded. “Oh that’s easy. It’s grace.” After some discussion, the conference had to agree.
The notion of G-d’s love comes to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish covenant, the Muslim code of law- each offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make G-d’s love unconditional.”
Thanks be to G-d.