Reformation Day October 30-31, 2021
“Faith” Romans 3:19-28
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
There are some days when life is just complicated and confusing. I don’t know if this problem runs in cycles or if that is just how life becomes, but I see or hear too many things in life that are conflicted. A return to something that is simpler would be a delight.
What if we could return to something that is simpler, easier, less confusing or conflicted? Wouldn’t that be good? We can. We must. This clear and comforting way is a wonderful thing called living in faith. Today, on this Reformation Sunday, I’d like us to sit in this peace of faith. If you don’t have this, then, you need to get it. Faith is a gift that God wants to give to all of His people – including you.
Martin Luther, this man who is important to us Lutherans and important to the world, was in a complicated, confusing and conflicted mess. But, in time, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, and the clarity of what Jesus Christ came to do, he was able to eventually sit in the peace of faith. This word from Romans 1 gave him assurance, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17)
You know what faith is, right? It is trust, reliance, confidence and assurance. It is clinging to, holding on, falling into. I know a young man who lives by faith every Saturday. A few weeks ago I was having a meal with a young couple, David and Jackie, one of our new worshippers. They have been coming to Ascension for a few months and it was time to find out who they are. Newly married. From Illinois. Not too far from St. Louis. Going to school. Starting out in their careers. That is all good, but what he told me next really caught my attention. David is a sky-diver. You know, the kind that jumps out of planes – willingly. He has been doing this for years.
He usually goes up to Longmont every Saturday morning and the plane goes up 2 miles and then he jumps out of it. For an entire mile he just falls. Screaming the whole way, I suppose. Probably saying, “Who talked me into this?” No – he has more than 475 jumps. And after a mile of free falling, he pulls the cord, the chute opens, and he lands in some field in Longmont.
David has faith. He would not jump out of a plane two miles above the ground if he didn’t have faith in the safety of his arrival on land. What confidence and assurance he has to have to do such a thing.
This faith that we have is a faith in who our God is, what He has done and how we can live in peace now and security eternally. If you don’t have faith it is time to get it. In Mark 9, a lesson we read in worship just a few weeks ago, Jesus came to a situation that was frightening. A young boy was possessed by some evil spirit. When Jesus came near, the spirit threw the boy into a convulsion. His father, after explaining the ongoing problem said to Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:22b). “If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” The man was embarrassed about what he had said and spoke, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” (See Mark 9:24)
Faith is a great gift. Faith allows us to live confidently in the work of Jesus for us. Faith says that God truly loves me. Faith acknowledges that we would be lost forever in our sins unless Jesus Christ came to pay our penalty upon the cross. Faith says that Jesus Christ is both Savior and Lord. In our reading from Romans 3 we are told about this living faith, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Then, a few verses later, Paul asks, “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:21-22, 27-28)
Where will your heart find its hope? How will you know that sins are gone and cleansing has happened? How will you be confident that when life is done not one sin will be on your record when you stand before God in His judgement? Faith!! Simple faith. A trust in Jesus is not complicated or confusing.
To cement this basic thought that we are not saved by works but by simple faith alone, Paul gave the example of the life of Abraham, the father of the Jews. “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about – but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-5)
Faith. Taking God at His word. Believing all His promises. Living in the greatest peace. In March, one of our members, Marilyn Asche, died of COVID. Her son, Greg, stopped by on Thursday and we spoke about her life and her death. Next weekend, her name, along with many others, will be remembered on All Saint’s Day. Greg was not allowed to see his mother the last number of weeks of her life. That was hard. But Greg knew his mom’s faith. Knowing that God took care of her in life, and then in her eternity, brought him peace.
Faith is for all people. All people need to be people of faith because all people sit under the curse of sin. In this chapter Paul says, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:19-20) A few verses later we read, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22b-23) We all have the same problem – sin covers our bones. So God has given all of us the one and only solution – Jesus. Paul, again, about our confidence in Jesus, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)
Faith is necessary. It is comforting. It gives you strength. And it is eternal. There is no salvation without Jesus being involved in your life. There is no heaven if you don’t have Him and He having you. Think of that. There has to be a connection between you and Him. We call it faith. Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)
That is not so hard, is it? Faith – it isn’t that hard, is it? But why do so many people never come to faith? That young man – David – has 478 jumps as of Tuesday morning. 22 more jumps allows him to become an instructor. After 500 jumps, and a ton of instruction, David can become an instructor. As David said, “An instructor teaches someone how not to die when sky-diving.” If I got it right, the instructor and the sky-diver, initially, jump down together. You have to be really trusting, (and probably really dumb), to jump out of a plane two miles above the earth. Think of it – faith in your instructor, faith in your equipment, has to be the heart of that person.
Faith in Jesus is not so easy for one whose life has lived without Him for all their life. How will He change them? How will He change you? I believe it is the greatest change ever. Life, with faith in Jesus, is now lived in peace and hope and the certainty of the love of Christ and the faithfulness of God. Life now and forever is secure – God will always be present.
On this Reformation Day, may the reforming that God brings be inside us. Our faith has begun, is growing and will be eternal. Amen!!