We had another wonderful day in the Lord this Sunday morning here at First Covenant!
Thank you in particular to everyone who’s been praying for the outreach to Peoria Heights High School that we took part in, in connection with Stand for Truth Ministries’ outreach team -- the Christian band, Attaboy. We hosted Attaboy as our Worship Team on October 1, and then they held an assembly at PHHS last Wednesday, followed by a free concert that night at the Lakeview Community Center, where they shared the Gospel message with teens. It wasn’t a huge crowd (PHHS isn’t a huge school), but we pray that Christians were encouraged and non-Christians were challenged. Please pray in particular that kids will follow up on what they’ve heard and find a church and/or Youth Group to learn more from. We’d love to open our doors to reaching those teens, so we pray that some might come even this week to visit our own Youth Group... but the most important thing is that they would find somewhere that will preach God’s Word to them and share God’s love with them.
In our message this week, we continued our series on “The Five Solas of the Reformation,” leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, looking at “Sola Gratia” (“Grace Alone”), the conviction that God’s gift of salvation to us is precisely that -- a free gift, and not an earned recompense.
I emphasize that because so much of the time, we struggle with this concept. We want to make the simple bits more complex, and the complex bits more simple. Or we confuse and conflate “Sola Gratia” with “Sola Fide” (“Faith Alone”).
See, grace -- a free gift, God’s unmerited favor, our unearned handout -- is the mechanism that God uses to provide His salvation. We couldn’t earn it because A) we already owe God everything in the first place, and B) all of our “righteousness” is pretty messed up to begin with. But faith -- our belief not only in what God’s Word is telling us, but also laid on God Himself -- is the mechanism that we use to access God’s provision of grace. Think of it like turning the car key to make the car’s engine start up -- the key (our faith) doesn’t do anything but allow us access to the engine (God’s grace), which is the part that really moves the car along.
But we want to believe that somehow, we can earn God’s grace (which would be a contradiction in terms) -- or, that we can at least merit His grace better than that fellow over there does -- and that undermines the whole point of Christ’s work on the cross. In fact, Paul makes the case that if we could earn righteousness through what we’ve done, then “Christ died for nothing” (Galatians 2:21). But think about how many people casually and erroneously summarize salvation by thinking that “Good people go to Heaven, and bad people go to Hell.” No, regenerated people -- saved people, changed people -- go to Heaven, and unregenerated people blithely stay on their path to Hell.
Or, on the flipside, once we accept that it’s totally a free gift from God, we can sometimes go in the opposite direction and assume that we should just say, “Thanks” and move on with our own lives, secure that we can do more or less whatever we want because God’s salvation has nothing to do with our actions. But we’re told over and over again in Scripture (in Ephesians 2:8-10, James 2:14-26, 1 John 5:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, etc.) that though we’ve been saved by God’s grace, accessed through our faith, the viability of that faith is shown by how we then genuinely and sincerely live it out.
So live by real faith (through which we’ve been saved), and live out good works (because we’ve been saved), because God is good, and we’re saved by His unmerited grace alone.
Simple to understand.
And yet hard to accept and complex to do...