Last week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we celebrated our nation and our churches Scottish heritage. Our sermon from the day can be found here. This coming Sunday we'll be beginning a series of sermons that take a look at the biblical book of Galatians, sometimes described as a letter that outlines “The Gospel of Grace.” Our first passage we'll consider is Galatians 2:15-21. It talks a lot about grace.
The life of Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, was defined by his endeavor to discover the grace of God. For many years he struggled to figure out how his life could ever be acceptable to God. He read the Bible. He offered his life in service and joined a monastery. He went on pilgrimage. He fasted and he prayed.
For a long time he felt the law of God asked too much of him. His 'good' was never good enough. No matter what he tried, he found no rest for his soul. A transforming moment came as he reflected on a verse, that first appears in the Old Testament book of Habakkuk; “The just shall live by his faith.” (2:4)
Luther suggests that this seed, sown by the prophet Habakkuk, came to full flower in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul, (another disciple whose life was dramatically changed by grace) writes in the book of Romans 3:24 “All are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. ”
Luther explains;“Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. “
We don't need to prove to God how good we are. What a waste of effort! Because none of us is that good! Rather, God desires that we experience how good life can be when we allow Christ to live in us.
God invites us to trust that in Him our lives find their true purpose. That as we apprehend what has been done for us through the Cross and Resurrection, we will know that we are loved. We are encouraged to imagine the possibilities that a life open to and molded by God's Holy Spirit can offer us.
It's not easy to stop thinking we are in charge and let Jesus take the wheel of our lives. To live into the statement; “Not my will be done Oh Lord, but thine” is a challenge faced by every person who seeks to follow Jesus Christ. Martin Luther discovered that even becoming a monk could not give him the relationship with God he desired. Only grace could do that.
Later in life he writes “This grace of God is a very great, strong, mighty and active thing. It does not lie asleep in the soul. Grace hears, leads, drives, draws, changes, works all in man, and lends itself to be distinctly felt and experienced. It is hidden but its works are evident.”
The hymn writer John Newton simply described grace as “Amazing.” I pray that each of us will find ways to let go of the wheel, and allow grace to guide our lives through the “Love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:14)
Having mentioned allowing God to be in charge I could not resist making our music choice this week... “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood.
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.