Reflections of Our Savior

September 2017

 

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

(Mark 9:24NIV84)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God...

(Ephesians 2:8NIV84)

Dear members and friends of Our Savior:

     By far, the most common spiritual crisis people share with me as their pastor is their problem with faith. It seems we all struggle with faith. Our faith is weak, or we despair that it is gone, or we fear God expects more, or we think we lack sufficient experience to know our faith is living and active. Indeed, faith is a struggle for all of us, just like it was for the father who is quoted above in Mark 9. He wasn’t sure if Jesus could deliver his son from an evil spirit. Of course, Jesus could, and he did. The problem wasn’t with Jesus, the almighty and eternal Son of God, who has power over all things. The problem was with the sinful man, and his spiritual weakness.

     For us too, our weak or faltering faith is not the problem with our God. The problem lies in our own heart and mind.

     I am concerned that those of us who call ourselves Lutheran Christians are so preoccupied with our faith, that we turn faith into some sort of feeling or emotion inside of ourselves, that we seek earnestly, yet we often do not find. We are looking in the wrong place.

     So in writing this today, I think it is good for me to remind all of you (and myself) that as Lutheran Christians, we emphasize grace. This is one of those “Lutheran distinctives” that you hear me talking about. We call the gospel in Word and Sacraments of Baptism and Lord’s Supper “The Means of Grace,” not the means of faith. That is because in these “means of grace” God forgives our sins and delivers us from sin’s guilt and punishment. God’s love for us is based on his unbreakable promise...his love and mercy in Christ...on grace.

     God loves you and showed that love by sending his one and only Son to die on the cross to pay for the sin of the world, and yours. God’s love for you is not based on some sort of feeling you try to conjure up inside of you. It is based on his grace.

     You come to church on Sunday morning to have your sins forgiven. Your sins are forgiven through the gospel, the good news of everything that Jesus did for you. You are reminded of that in your baptism, when you were “clothed with Christ.” You hear that in the absolution pronounced by the pastor after we stand and confess our sinfulness and need for a savior. You hear that in the readings appointed for that particular Sunday. You hear it and sing about it in the Christ centered hymns we sing. You hear it in the sermon. You confess it in the creeds. You receive it personally in Holy Communion, when you receive the true body and blood of the Savior in and with the bread and wine. You even hear the gospel in the benediction that closes the service. That’s what church is for. Need I say it again? That’s what church is for.

      That is why you come...for grace.

Pastor Johnson