For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
If you have survived boot camp, you have learned all about the giving and taking of orders. You have also become familiar with the chain-of-command. Contradicting a drill instructor is not a good idea. Changing a message that has come down from the Captain is a sure way to get into a heap of trouble.
When the ship’s loudspeakers blare the words, “Now hear this!” the Sailor better be listening.
How strange then, when the Captain of Salvation issues a message of eternal life and death, many people pay no attention to what he says. Some, brazenly contradict him.
From Genesis to Revelation, the Almighty makes it clear that the human race is spiritually dead and hopelessly lost. If there will be any life, it must come from the Lord of Life. Body or soul, he alone can make alive. Like physical life, spiritual life is a gift, not something that can be earned.
The Bible serves as the Lord God’s loudspeaker to the world. Every verse could be introduced with the command: Now hear this!
The Lutheran Reformation, which began 500 years ago, asked the question, “What did God say?”
All the noise rising from human voices had started to drown out the only voice that mattered. People were asking, “What do the church leaders say?” “What do most people believe?” “What makes the most sense to me?” Finally, that ends up with the question, “What do I say?”
How can I escape the penalty that my rebellion against God has earned me? Trying harder to not sin won’t do it. It will not undo the crime. Paying more money to the church will not do it. God will not be bribed. Starving myself, shutting myself off from the rest of the world, and praying to the dead will not bring me an inch closer to heaven.
To the frantic question, “What must I do to be saved? The thunderous voice from heaven says, “NOW HEAR THIS!”
And then he tells us. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” He announces, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” To those who have put their trust in him as their Savior, he assures them on their deathbed, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
No need to fear. No need to worry. No basis for boasting. It is all the work of God. Salvation is a gift from God.
And anytime we begin to doubt that, may we be brought back to our senses with the call of Scripture: “NOW HEAR THIS!”
We pray: Sovereign Lord who desires that everyone would come to the knowledge of the truth and turn to Jesus as the one who gained salvation for us—and then offered it to us free of charge. By nature, we are prone to reject that. We would rather listen to what our minds say, or what other people tell us than to listen to you. Forgive us for that. Continue to call out to us with the words of your Law and Gospel. You offer forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. You tell us that. Make us listen. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry