Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: God’s grace

Guest Post: Sola Fide

by Rev. Adam Kelchner

Read Romans 4:1-5.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comWhat then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

Sola fide, sola gratie (By faith alone, by grace alone). These are some of the most important and contentious words in all of Christian history. But we’ll get back to that.

For a few more months I’m serving as the United Methodist campus minister at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m also not that far out of the classroom setting as a student myself. I think there’s something critically important that we see in the lives of students whether in elementary school or a Master’s program that opens a window into our text.

The grand narrative of the student goes something like this: the ‘good’ student pays attention, participates in the classroom, completes assignment on time, works diligently to understand concepts, proves his or her intellectual worth to the teacher or professor through rigorous academic exercises. If the student satisfies or exceeds the expectations of the professor, then an ‘A’ or ‘A+’ is rewarded. The award is based on the merits of the student. Some college students know all too well that merit can pay off in generous scholarships and that the scholarship depends on continued demonstration of achievement. It’s not all that different from the office employee who pushes the bounds of sanity for a raise or promotion. The church calls this ‘works righteousness.’

In other words, can we earn our salvation in the eyes of God?

There is a story of faith that counters the insanity that can emerge from ‘works righteousness.’ God’s salvation does not depend on what you and I are capable of; our salvation in Jesus Christ does not depend on a tightly polished resume or curriculum vitae. Sola fide. It is by faith alone that we enter into life with the Almighty God and that’s good news. There’s nothing you can do to change the fact that God already loves you. There’s nothing you can do to earn God’s love. Our relationship with God and with one another is made right (justified) by God’s grace.

When you have to prove yourself in so many facets of life, it’s good news to the weary, the burned out, and the rejected that Christ gives this grace freely for the healing of our broken hearts and spirits.

Rev. Adam Kelchner is the Pastor for Missions and Outreach at Belmont United Methodist Church

Guest Post: Armor of Light

Slide3Rev. Sarah Wastella is the Associate Pastor at Larchmont United Methodist in Norfolk, Virginia. Her blog is She Offered Them Christ.
“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.  Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.  Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:11-14 NRS).

(Image courtesy of thegic.org)
We often think of armor as something that protects us from an outward attack, a defense mechanism, but what if the armor of light also protects others from our sin, which emanates from within?  Sin spreads quickly, like darkness.  Turn off a switch, and, instantly, the room goes black.  A bulb finally burns out and dies, and the desk is shrouded in darkness.  It can happen in the blink of an eye, and so can sin.  One minute you are out having a good time, and next thing you know one drink has turned into drunkenness, and then debauchery.  It does not have to be this way.  Indeed, not every drink turns into regret, heartbreak, and a run in with the legal authorities, but too many do.
Modern culture, like the Roman culture from which Paul writes in his letter to the Roman church, has a preference for alcohol.  Combine this with our inclination to sin, and you have a devastating combination.  We need protection for ourselves and for others, not just from alcohol abuse, but any course of action that leads to sin, and gives birth to evil.  Out of this context, Paul urges us to carefully consider what our decisions will bring about.  Do not focus on the body, but the spirit in union with the body.  The body will consume well past its point of being sated.  The spirit, a gift from God, is not a glutton, nor will it deny another for its own gratification.  Putting on the armor of light, this Christ-like aura that seeks sanctification over licentiousness, is to seal our sin within, and refuse to be swayed by the sinful influences of the outside.
Each day that passes brings the Day of Resurrection ever closer.  While we do not know when it shall come, we do know that we are to live each day as if it will be our last time to show mercy, reveal God’s truth in love, and proclaim the Gospel of salvation through Christ Jesus.  Our sinful selves would gladly put that on hold to accomplish our own will, but that kind of living is what necessitated the coming of Christ in the first place.  There will always be those who neglect the spiritual and over indulge the physical, yet Christ calls out from the lives of his disciples who willingly take on this persona of light and truth.  Darkness is thick and heavy.  It has to be to cover the multitude of sins that occur in its midst, but the light is gossamer veil of God’s grace, through which sin is held at bay.  We need that reprieve to put all of our effort and beings into the work of the Kingdom.  As it inches ever closer, our work is ever more imperative.  Our time to celebrate will come, and we will revel in the glory of God’s presence for all time when the Kingdom is brought to fruition on that day.  For now, the armor of light lifts our burdens from us, freeing us for joyful obedience, and protecting us from our darker selves.
Holy Spirit,
Surround me with your presence.
Swathe me in guidance and encouragement.
My sin would gladly break out and contaminate my life.
The sin of others entices me to follow.
Let Christ be ever in my thoughts and on my heart.
As his sacrifice clothes me in righteousness,
May his Gospel clothe me in light.
Fend off the darkness,
And make me a beacon for those who would seek refuge from it.
I am not perfect, Lord,
But willing.
Through you, I am able to do all things.
May they be done for your honor and glory.

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