Jesus Reveals God is Love: Remember the chasm in our pictures from last week’s devotion? (If you missed last week’s devotion here’s the link: (http://www.calvarylutheranscottsbluff.org/blog-ps-my-spiritual-musings/there-is-no-way-to-god-period). The minute we sin our relationship with God is broken and we become separated from God and there is no way we can restore that relationship on our own; we can never be perfect enough or do enough good works to heal the brokenness. So God comes to us, God takes on human flesh, becomes one of us in Jesus Christ dying on the cross for us, forgiving our sins through the power of the cross and resurrection and restoring that which we could not do on our own.
Grace. It’s a word we like to throw around a lot in the Lutheran Church. If you grew up Lutheran you might have even learned a handy little acronym for helping you remember what grace means: God’s Redemption at Christ’s Expense.
The author of our “Lutheran Trump Card” study says it a little differently: Jesus reveals God is love. However you want to define it, grace is the promise that God loves us so much that he refuses to leave us caught in our sin and the subsequent brokenness and separation that sin causes.
This love is the content of grace. It is the promise that despite what we may do, God always comes to us again and again and again, inviting us to accept Jesus’ gift to us on the cross and the chance to begin again, no matter how many times we may have sinned.
Faith, (another term we like to use a lot in the Lutheran church) is simply the acceptance of this grace—this gift—from God. But let us be clear, as Dave Daubert, the author of our study says, “faith does not make God loves us—it helps us trust that God already does love us (no footnotes or exception clauses).”
“For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified (made right) by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.” (Romans 3:23-24)
There is No Way to God! (Period). So reads the title of the first chapter in the “Lutheran Trump Cards” book that Pastor Chris and I are using for our adult study on Sunday mornings. Now this may surprise you, but as Lutherans this is indeed one of the central points of our understanding of faith. There is no way to God (period)…In other words, we cannot make our way to God, because God has already made his way to us.
2 pictures help to illustrate this point. In the first picture there is a huge chasm, deep and wide, separating God from man; the chasm we are told, is caused by our sin and it is too wide for us to cross. There is no way for us to get to God on our own, but in the center of the chasm is a picture of a cross with the arms of the cross reaching across the chasm like a bridge. Traditionally, when this picture is explained and/or used in religious tracts you may have seen, we are told that if we accept Christ into our lives and repent of our sins, Christ provides a way across to God and so then we see in the picture a man making his way to God with an arrow pointing the way to God.
The problem with this picture is that it’s all about us—all about our getting right with God—as if it is somehow dependent on us. You see as Dave Daubert, the author of the study book writes, “nothing we can do can get us right with God and no amount of effort on our part can get us to eternity. In this matter we are powerless.
Which brings us to our second picture. Notice that the arrow is now going in the opposite direction with God making his way to us. This is the gospel message, the good news of Jesus Christ that we as Lutherans proclaim. Or as Daubert writes, “God always goes first, always initiates, and comes to us.” It’s one of the reasons we practice infant baptism, because nothing more clearly demonstrates that our salvation has nothing to do with us or anything we do, than God saving and claiming us as he does in Baptism.
And once we understand that, then we can be free to relax in God’s love and grace and stop worrying about what we have to do—because there is nothing we can do to earn God’s love and grace—it’s a gift given to us by God through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Want to learn more about what we as Lutherans believe? Well, it’s not too late to join Pastor Chris and I on Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. for the rest of the ‘Lutheran Trump Cards’ study or you can follow my blog (P.S. My Spiritual Musings) on our website (or our Facebook page) where I will be sharing what the rest of the ‘Lutheran Trump Cards’ are over the next 12 weeks.
Relax! God already loves you!