“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:8-10, New King James Bible.
You have another busy summer this year, don’t you? Gone are the days of youth, when summer was always a time of long lazy days of rest and relaxation spent with friends. Now the summer schedule fills up so quickly and completely that it seems like you’ll need an extra hand just to get it all done.
You’d look a little funny with an actual extra hand, and we all know that’s just an expression. But when it comes to the Triune God’s plan for saving you, he actually gives you a gift that works like an extra hand, because, well … you need it. You can’t get to heaven without it. That gift is called faith. It’s not an inner feeling or thought of the intellect, like, “I have faith that the Green Bay Packers are going to win this year’s Super Bowl.” No, saving faith is a “present,” a “thing,” an “object” that God graciously gives to you. Then that gift enables you to believe and trust in his word — the Bible. Faith believes God’s word.
God’s gift of faith works much like an extra hand. He creates it for you, attaching it to your heart. Now when you hear the word, your faith clings to it, firmly grasps the promises found in it, believes and confidently knows the truth and power of it. God planned to save you through this gift called faith out of his grace — his undeserved love and kindness towards you.
No one may take the credit for having the gift to believe. God alone, out of grace, has done it for you. There is great emphasis on this fact in Ephesians 2:8-10. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. If left to ourselves, we would not find the correct path to God’s kingdom. But through the gift of faith, we are already part of God’s holy church. We “have been saved.”
Faith believes. The Bible says the world was created in six days. Faith believes. God instituted the marriage of one man and one woman for life. Faith believes. God sent his son, Jesus, into the world to save sinners. Faith believes. On the cross, Jesus was the sacrifice necessary to pay for the world’s sins. Faith believes. The empty tomb of our living savior proves his victory over sin, death and the devil. Faith believes. Jesus says, “Because I live, you shall live also.” Faith believes. Heaven is yours right now. Faith believes.
A quote from the Lutheran “Book of Concord:”
“We unanimously believe, teach, and confess the following about the righteousness of faith before God. A poor sinful person is justified before God, that is, absolved and declared free and exempt from all his sins and from the sentence of well-deserved condemnation, and is adopted into sonship and inheritance of eternal life, without any merit or worth of his own. This happens without any preceding, present, or subsequent works, out of pure grace, because of the sole merit, complete obedience, bitter suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Christ alone. His obedience is credited to us for righteousness. These treasures are brought to us by the Holy Spirit in the promise of the holy Gospel. Faith alone is the only means through which we lay hold on, accept, apply, and take them for ourselves. This faith is God’s gift, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our redeemer, in the word of the Gospel and trust in him. We trust that for the sake of his obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the father, and are eternally saved.”
Do you need an extra hand this summer? Yes, you do — the hand of faith.
Pastor Dave Naumann serves St. John's Lutheran Church in Clarkston.