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Reflections on the Reformers

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John 14:3–6

From the Reformer

This Gospel text teaches exclusively of the Christian faith, and awakens that faith in us; just as John, throughout his whole Gospel, simply instructs us how to trust in Christ the Lord. This faith alone, when based upon the sure promises of God, must save us; as our text clearly explains. And in the light of it all, they must become fools who have taught us other ways to become godly. All that human ingenuity can devise, be it as holy and as luminous as it may, must tumble to the ground if man be saved in God’s way—in a way different from that which man himself plans. Man may forever do as he will, he can never enter heaven unless God takes the first step with his Word, which offers him divine grace and enlightens his heart so as to get upon the right way.

This right way, however, is the Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever desires to seek another way, as the great multitudes venture to do by means of their own works, has already missed the right way; for Paul says to the Galatians: “If righteousness is through the Law,” that is, through the works of the Law, “then Christ died for naught” (Gal 2:21). Therefore I say man must fall upon this Gospel and be broken to pieces and in deep consciousness lie prostrate, like a man that is powerless, unable to move hand or foot. He must only lie motionless and cry: Almighty God, merciful Father, now help me! I cannot help myself. Christ, my Lord, do help now, for with only my own effort all is lost! Thus, in the light of this cornerstone, which is Christ, everyone becomes as nothing; as Christ says of himself in Luke 20:17-18, when he asks the Pharisees and scribes: “What then is this that is written. The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner? Every one that falleth on that stone shall be ‘broken to pieces; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will scatter him as dust” (Psa 118:22). Therefore, we must either fall upon this stone, Christ, in all our inability and helplessness, rejecting our own merits, and be broken to pieces, or he will forever crush us by his severe sentence and judgment. It is better that we fall upon him than that he should fall upon us. For this reason the Lord says in this Gospel: “No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day.”

—Martin Luther, Assorted Sermons, “On Faith, And Coming To Christ”

Pulling It Together

At first he would not admit he had a problem but then, he went to his father for help. He told him that he would have to do this on his own and that all he had to do was white-knuckle it. Then, after years of struggling to control his abuse of alcohol, the man hit bottom, breaking into emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual pieces. No matter how much he had tried, alcohol was a part of his life that controlled him as often as otherwise. He needed help outside himself.

It is a similar condition that plagues humanity. It is also addicted; its addiction is to sin. No matter how it tries to be good, it is bad. Like the alcoholic who is not always drunk, the “good” person’s life is touched by bouts and even binges of sin. Try as they might to be otherwise, all are sinners (Rom 3:23) and controlled by sin unless they seek assistance. The Father has a Way where you do not have to do it on your own, try harder, or just use more willpower. When the alcoholic walked through the door of his local AA meeting, he was on the road to recovery. When you walk through the Gate of God, the Father recovers you by his will—not yours, by his effort—not yours, by his grace—not by your goodness.

More Reflections

Pastor Kent Groethe's study of the Book of Acts, Acts - Old Places, New Facesfocuses on the life of the early church as a model for church life today. The message and power of the church today needs to be revitalized and renewed by the power of God's Spirit, just as it was in the early church.

Other books in the "Old Place, New Faces" series

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