Free But Not Easy

This month, the Reformation turns 500. She’s done a lot over five centuries. She’s responsible for the transformation of Europe and the Christianization of North America. Her theology is responsible for the massive conversion of Africa and the underground faith of the formerly communist USSR and the currently quasi-communist China and the certainly-communist DPRK. Through the gospel message she proclaims, hundreds of millions of lives have been changed and saved.

The Reformation did not create something new, rather it brought people back to the basics of a faith long forgotten. It brought people back to three truths: Scripture, Christ, and grace. It brought people back to Scripture and the belief that God’s Word is the inspired, infallible and inerrant truth and the only source and norm of Christian doctrine and practice. It brought people back to Christ, that he alone is Savior and Lord; our only hope for true life now and in the age to come. The Reformation brought people back to grace; to an understanding that salvation is a gift of God received by faith without any works or merit on our part. The Reformation brought people back to the Biblical Gospel of salvation: that Christ is not a “helper,” but a Savior.

Before Mamartin lutherrtin Luther’s 95 Theses were nailed on the castle church door in Wittenberg, being a Christian was easy, but costly. As long as you jumped through the hoops the church set up, you were good (if not great) to go. You could count on a period of time in purgatory, but then you’d make it into heaven. Go to church. Pray some scripted prayers. Give some money. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Even though it was costly (those indulgences and penances weren’t going to pay for themselves!), it was easy. A couple of hours each week doing your religious obligations and you could get back to your real life.

The Reformation changed all that. We correctly understand that salvation is free—a gracious gift of God, made possible by the law-fulfilling life, amends-making death, and all-conquering resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we also have come to know that it is anything but easy.  Having been baptized into Christ, we are new creations, transferred from the control of sin, death and the devil and given to the gracious rule of God. We are no longer the property of the evil one; we are God’s children. And this new identity we have been given is all-consuming. It does not ask for two hours of lip service each week, or that a few religious duties be done; it is the foundation for a radical (repentant) change in lifestyle. No longer do we seek our glory, but the glory of the one of saved us. We do not think like the world; we have different goals, priorities and attitudes. Each and every day we put on the full armor of God to take our stand as Christ’s ambassadors in a world that saw fit to put him to death. Every day our faith in a good and gracious God is attacked by the evils and injustices we see. Every day, we are tempted to return to the empty way of life embraced by our culture; to turn our backs on Christ. Salvation is free, but not easy.

Therefore, devote yourselves to the reading of God’s Word and to prayer. Build each other up in your most holy faith. And do not be afraid to speak the name of the one to whom you belong—who has saved you here in time and for all eternity, Jesus Christ our Lord.

In Christ,

Pastor Duncan

 

 

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