Heaven is ours by God’s grace, alone
Rev. Michael Nirva, St. James Lutheran Church, Howard Lake
The Word of the Lord: Isaiah 53:4-6. “Surely, He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we are healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
One of the greatest privileges Christians have is the observance of the season of Lent. Lent is a penitential period in the church year, a time when we concentrate more intently on the seriousness of our sins and the tremendous sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross to atone for them.
Our observance of Lent will reach its climax in Holy Week, when we follow the Man of Sorrows from Gethsemane to Golgotha. That is the most momentous week in world history, momentous not only because of the individual standing in the midst of things, but also because of the far-reaching results of the blessed outcome of those events for every human soul.
In order to receive the blessings of Lent and Holy Week, we must be convinced of two things. First, we must be convinced that we are lost without Christ; and second, we must look up in faith to the crucified Lord.
We must be convinced that we are lost without Christ. The truth of our depravity is recorded for us in Isaiah 53:6 “All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way . . .”
All men are lost in sin, not only obvious sinners, but all have been infected with the poison of sin. In Adam, we all have sinned. All are now flesh born of flesh, and they show it.
Indeed, every sinful thought is rebellion against the Lord. God is holy and hates sin. As a result, all people are under God’s wrath. They are in debt, separated from God. They have the Almighty against them, and unless a change takes place, they will have God against them forever.
To be convinced that we are lost without Christ is the first thing necessary to appreciate and enjoy the blessings of Lent and Holy Week, but it is only the first. We must also look up in faith to the crucified and exalted Lord.
God has provided a way out of man’s misery in His Son, Jesus Christ. The truth of our salvation is recorded for us in Isaiah 53:4-5, “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
The law shows us our sins, and the mightiest preaching of the law is found in the Passion of Jesus Christ. “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Your sins, and mine, killed the Son of God. Therefore, peace with God, the forgiveness of our sins, could only be established by the death of the Prince of life. Through the eyes of faith, we must believe that Christ has died for our sins, believe that heaven is ours by God’s grace, alone.
Jesus said, “That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” In Mark 16:16, it states plainly, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”
Faith is the only way to lay hold of, to receive the blessings of Jesus’ work. The fruits of Christ’s redemption, forgiveness of sins, and life and salvation are deposited in the promises of the Gospel. Faith, as with a hand, takes from those promises what they contain and makes them the sinner’s most blessed possession. By such faith, life is yours and with all that implies.
He is yours, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You have life more abundantly, even in trials and temptations; for who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect, who are justified by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ? If God is for us, who or what can be against us?
All things must work together for the good to them that love God. Even death cannot hurt you. It must, rather, serve you, serve to bring you to the full enjoyment of the life that you now possess by faith.
During this Lenten season, it is good that we never lose sight of God’s grace and may it be so in every Christian’s heart. Amen.