“Now I should like to know whether your soul, tired of its own righteousness, is learning to be revived by and to trust in the righteousness of Christ.” – Martin Luther
In honor of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation I offer these devotional thoughts on “Faith Alone.”
There are about 45,000 self-help books in print. A thriving $11 billon industry awaits to help us help ourselves learn to cook, lose weight, think positively, fix our relationships, and find ultimate happiness. You’d think with so much assistance out there we’d be better off, but our society doesn’t seem to be getting better. Perhaps the opposite is true.
Martin Luther attempted the spiritual version of self-help. He believed he could do enough good deeds, receive enough sacraments, say enough prayers to make up for the sins he'd committed. After years of earnest effort, he came up short. Self-help let him down. Then, as he was reading the Bible he discovered a truth that hadn’t sunk in until then, that self-help is really no help at all. He needed something he couldn’t give himself, God’s grace.
When he discovered that the only way to salvation was by receiving it as a gift from God through faith, it changed his world. It changed the world. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV).
God is in the redeeming business. He launched a rescue mission a long time ago and he’s been working at it, drawing people into relationship with himself, ever since. Our efforts at self-improvement never measure up. Thankfully, God sent Jesus on the mission to the cross to make a way for us to trust in him and then join him in his mission of rescuing the world.
Simple faith, simple trust, that’s the work God wants. We can put our faith in Christ and see God transform our lives as we learn to live by the leadership of the Spirit. Martin Luther found joy and hope, not in his abilities, but in God’s. You can, too.