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St Johns Southgate

13 May 2014

Our God is a God of grace. To us Lutherans, this is especially important, because it was Dr Luther who revived the teaching on God’s grace in the 16th century, during a time when the church’s focus was very much on performance and achievement.

Luther’s years as an observant Augustinian monk, during which he suffered severe bouts of anfechtung as he called them, or “dark nights of the soul”, taught him that it was pastorally essential to point troubled consciences towards God’s grace, in the means of grace of word and sacraments. 

“A Christian is free from all things and over all things,” Luther wrote in his 1520 treatise The Freedom of a Christian: “So that he needs no works to make him righteous and save him, since faith alone abundantly confers all these things” (LW 31:356). Grace is the underserved love of God for us. God accepts and forgives sinners “by grace”, moved by his own love, not because of our actions or acceptance of him. This is the main truth of the Bible. 

We live in a performance-orientated society. We are all measured by what we do or fail to do and we are taught this right from the start. Doctors give newborn babies scores on how healthy they are and already in primary school, children are graded on performance – on what they do. 

Someone said we have gone from being human beings to human doings. So if we want to be accepted we need to achieve. 

But it’s not so with God. Christ has already achieved everything for us. He took the death sentence we deserved and we have received his goodness, perfection and righteousness in return. This means that when God looks at us, he sees us as perfect, as if we are Christ himself, as if we have never sinned!

Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection, rather than our performance, is the bridge that connects us with God. 

If we try to get to God by our performance, we fall into the chasm. But when we put our faith in Christ and in his death and resurrection, then we are transported across the bridge – without any effort of our own!

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