Section 1: Opening Prayer
O God, help us to not think too highly of ourselves that we might come to think we can earn our way to life eternally with you. That is a gift given only from you and one we can not earn. Open our hearts to your amazing grace, and allow it to overflow in our lives. Fill us with your spirit and guide us in your love so that we might show your grace to all the world. Amen!
Section 2: Story
Watch this video done by Chris Tomlin of his remake of Amazing Grace:
And here is an acapella remake of that song:
Section 3: Message
Read the article on Justification from the Augsburg Confession:
Article IV: Of Justification.
1] Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.
OK now that you read that do you understand what it means to be justified?
OK, maybe not…
So let us back up and talk about what justification means. Justification according to Merriam-Webster Online is the act, process, or state of being justified by God. (OK, well it is actually more than that but that is the definition we are discussing here today.) So what does it mean to be justified by God? And since when can you use a form of the word to define a word?!?! OK so according to Merriam-Webster Online Justify means to judge, regard, or treat as righteous and worthy of salvation. (again it means more than this, but this is the definition we are working with here.)
So to be justified means to be treated as righteous or worthy of salvation. So how are we made right or worthy of salvation?
One of the cornerstone verses for Martin Luther was Ephesians 2:8-9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
What the author of the letter to Ephesus was saying to the Ephesians is that it is because of grace they are saved through faith. It is not anything they did or could do. Salvation is a gift from God, not through our own merit.
Read here the scripture used in Article IV above, Romans 3-4.
In this reading, Paul tells the Romans that all of us have fallen short of the glory of God. None of us are righteous on our own. But if we have faith in the promises of God and follow after Abraham as an example of believing God, remember Abraham waited on his son Isaac for a really long time, and then God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and he was willing to, because of all God meant to him and how much he believed in the promises. So if we have faith, trust and belief in the promises of God, the gift of grace will be extended to us, not because of what we’ve done or will do, but because of the gift, and we will be made right through that gift.
From the Lutheran Study Bible Augsburg Fortress, c 2009, page 1822:
What does it mean to be “saved by grace”? “The Law says. ‘do this,’ and it’s never done. Grace says, ‘believe in this,’ and everything is already done,” Martin Luther said in his Heidelberg Disputation (1518). Grace means that the Lord gives us forgiveness, love, and life with God forever, as free gifts. Since God has given us all this through Jesus, we don’t have to do anything to earn God’s favor (see Eph 2:8-9). This grace drives us to worship God and share grace with our neighbor in word and deed. Acts 15:11
So we are made right with God through our faith in Jesus Christ, not because of anything we have done or will do.
Also remember John 3:17. And no I didn’t get that wrong. Yes all of you probably know what John 3:16 is, and can say it from memory, but how many of you know John 3:17? I think it is just as important if not more important than John 3:16. Right, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life” (Pastor Jerry paraphrase.) And John 3:17 is, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (Again PJ paraphrase). God sent His Son because He loved the world, and He sent His son, not to condemn us, but that we might see the Son and be saved!
Grace and Justification are gifts of God, given to us through our faith in Jesus Christ. We can not earn grace by anything we have done, and we can not lose it because of anything we did or didn’t do, and we can’t get it by doing anything in the future. It is a gift.
But just because we can’t earn grace doesn’t mean we don’t have works to do. You see the flip side of being justified by grace through faith is that we say we don’t have to do anything. I can’t do anything to earn God’s grace so there is nothing for me to do. WRONG!!!
Ephesians 2:8-9 above tells us that we are made right by the gift of God through or faith in Jesus Christ. But we have to continue on in that reading also. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (NRSV) We are saved by Grace through faith not of our own doing, and we are saved for the good works, which God prepared for us before we were saved. You see, you are saved with a purpose, justified in the sight of God to go and share His grace with everyone.
So go and be His hands and feet.
Section 4: Learn and Engage
– What are 3 things you learned?
– What is 1 question you still have?
– What part of the lesson did you most identify with?
– What part of the lesson was hardest for you?
– Where have you seen God this week?
Section 5: Closing Prayer
Gracious and most holy God, thank you for saving us. For giving us the gift of your Son and our Savior so that we might see how we are to be your children in this world. Help us to be bold in our sharing of the grace that you first gave us. Amen.