Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

“The just shall live by faith”

The central Bible teaching of the Reformation
[In addition to being recognized as "Halloween," October 31st is the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, which is traditionally viewed as the symbolic beginning of the Protestant Reformation. In celebrating the 500th anniversary of Luther's nailing of the 95 Theses, the following is a reflection on the core gospel emphasis of the Reformation.]
In the life of Martin Luther (1483-1546), we see the struggles of a man who wanted to know for sure that God loved him and that he would be accepted into heaven when he died.

Most people, when asked how they can know that God loves them, reply that they have to be good in order to know his love. For them, the good things that we do are the key to experiencing God’s love and obtaining eternal life in Heaven.

Early in his life, Luther was of this same opinion. But Luther came to understand something that deeply troubled him. In order to gain the love and acceptance of a perfect God through good works, a person’s works must be completely perfect: without the slightest flaw. Most people, when realizing this truth, decide to ignore it and just hope that God will overlook their many imperfections. Luther was far too serious a thinker to just pretend that God would forget the wrong things that he had done and continued to do, so he was tortured by the thought that God was not happy with the good things that he tried to do: he realized that life was very short compared to eternity and he had to know for certain that he would not be sent to Hell forever.
Luther tried to do many good things to make God happy with him. He would pray for days at a time, going without food so that he could focus more on his prayers. He took a vow of poverty so that gaining money would not become something that distracted him from thinking about God. And he spent hours confessing all of his sins. Still, Luther realized that he was far from perfect and he had no confidence that God loved him or that he could have eternal life in Heaven.

Luther came to understand the love, forgiveness, and acceptance of God after a serious, in-depth study of the New Testament book of Romans. What did Luther read in Romans that made such a huge change in his life? From history we know the answer; while studying Romans, Luther was thinking about Jesus’ death on the Cross when he came upon this verse: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written. The just shall live by faith.”(Romans 1:17) As he studied more he found this same thought expressed again in the book of Galatians: “But that no man is justified by the Law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”(Galatians 3:11) Luther continued to study the teaching of justification in the New Testament. (“Justification” means “to be declared completely innocent of any wrongdoing by God.”) Justification is the way by which sinners gain righteousness. (“Righteousness,” in this sense, means “brought into a right relationship with God.[1]”) Luther realized that he, like everyone else, had done things that he knew were wrong and against God’s commands, and he had proven himself to be as sinner, as the Bible says: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So how could he gain justification? How could he be declared innocent of sin before God? The answer, according to the verses mentioned above, was that sinner must be justified by faith. As Luther continued to think about the Cross-- and about justification by faith-- he realized the meaning of the whole New Testament: indeed, the whole Bible. He saw that the Laws were given to show us that we could never do enough good things to earn the love and forgiveness of God. We always fall short and deserve nothing but punishment in Hell. But the Good News is: Jesus took that punishment for us in order to give us life in Him.

Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on human nature as God the Father Almighty sent the Holy Spirit to the Virgin Mary. Jesus lived the only absolutely perfect human life, perfectly keeping all of God’s commands that we have failed to keep.

Jesus was arrested and He was condemned to be crucified on false charges during the government of Pontius Pilate. On the cross, Jesus died as a substitute for sinful people, taking all of the suffering, death and punishment in Hell that sinners deserve.

Jesus was buried, and on the third day after His death, He rose again from the grave, proving Himself to be the champion over death and Hell, offering you life and freedom from sin if you will believe in Him.

Jesus ascended into heaven and now is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, freely offering new, eternal life to anyone who believes in Him.

Luther saw these truths in a new light when he realized that he could have perfect peace with God simply through faith in Jesus Christ. When Luther came to understand this, he wrote, “I felt myself reborn and to have gone into open doors through paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning…This passage of Paul [Romans 1:17] became to me a gate to heaven…”[2]

After he truly placed his faith in Jesus, trusting in Him alone to make him right in God’s sight and save his soul, Luther knew that justification by faith in Jesus was the Truth of God’s Word, and he was willing to risk death for that truth, even defying the Pope and the Emperor in order to continue preaching God’s forgiveness.

You too can know the love, acceptance, and forgiveness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Simply confess to God that you are a sinner and that you can do no good works that will earn His love. Then, call out to Jesus in faith.
Faith is complete trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from sin, death, and Hell and to give you eternal life.

I urge you, dear reader: place your faith in Him today!

[1] See W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Oliphants Ltd., 1952).
[2] Quoted in Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Pierce and Smith, 1950; reprint, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1978), 49-50.



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