Devotion for October 30-November 1, 2017

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law,
although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of
God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no
distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are
justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 3:21-24.

It’s a shocking revelation that we’re saved by grace through faith, apart from
works of the Law. It runs completely against everything we’re hardwired to
think. We want to believe that we’re responsible, at least in the smallest part,
for God’s favor. We want to think that God owes us, however little, for
something that we do. We feel certain that we can be good enough to earn
something from God, to get the process going for salvation, to get His
attention and cause Him to want to save us.

But Paul strikes like a thunderbolt: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory
of God.” No one has earned anything from Him but His displeasure. No one
can claim that God owes them anything. No one can point to their works and
say that they’ve won His favor. All have sinned. It’s almost become a cliché to
say that everyone’s a sinner. But it typically is softened to mean something
like, “Everyone makes a mistake now and then.” Paul has a completely
different understanding here. He’s not just shrugging his shoulders and saying
that everyone has their little slipups. He’s saying that no one has deserved
anything good from God. Not a single human being has done anything worthy
of being called righteous.

That’s why the message of the Reformation was so tremendous. It wasn’t the
removal of things that were too medieval or giving power to the people that
made the Reformation what it was. It was the declaration that no one has
earned righteousness on their own, but that God still gives it to us anyway. He
does this not because of what we do, but because it’s His gift. We don’t have
to pay for it, before or after the fact. We don’t have to do anything to become
worthy of it. It’s something He gives us out of grace. The Reformation brought
back into crystal clear focus that it’s all about what Jesus has accomplished on
the cross, not about what we do for Him. This is how we are saved. “For we
hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Romans
3:28)

This is truth that truly does set us free. Your salvation is not in your own
hands. It’s in God’s hands. There’s no better place for it to be. Jesus has done
everything that was necessary to save you. He’s given you eternal life as a gift
without cost. That’s how much He loves you. That’s how much He wants you
to be with for eternity. That’s what we give thanks for on this 500th
anniversary of the Reformation.

Prayer: Almighty and gracious Lord, pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your
faithful people. Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and
deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and
grant to Your Church saving peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.