As I did a few weeks ago, occasionally I’ll share with you some great quotes I’ve come across during my research. All of these memorable quotes have inspired and encouraged me, and I hope they do the same for you. Enjoy!
“We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that remains alone.” Martin Luther
As you may know, Martin Luther was the German reformer who was tormented for years in his quest to understand and earn the righteousness of God. In fact, during his struggle to obtain this as a young Catholic monk, Luther admitted that far from loving God, he actually feared and hated God because of his vain attempts at becoming righteous before God. Luther felt nothing but condemnation and despair as he labored to become righteous.
But one day about a year and a half before he would ignite the Protestant Reformation, Luther came to understand by studying the book of Romans that the righteousness of God wasn’t to be feared and especially not earned, but received as a gift by faith. So in Luther’s discovery, nothing anyone could do – all our futile works – could ever garner God’s attention towards us, or especially the bestowal of his righteousness. The glorious breakthrough was that God’s already done all the work: we just receive it by faith in Jesus! And now, since I am righteous according to God, works are needed more than ever, but not to garner God’s attention, but now works born of my faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Another quote from Luther further reveals this even more:
“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.”
Of course the Bible sums this up best:
“But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18 (NASB)
So although we are saved by faith alone, that faith should never remain alone as it brings forth works of righteousness that in turn can help others to realize an awesome truth: God loves them so much that he’s already done all the work!
“Faith can’t be forced, but unfaith can be challenged.” N.T. Wright
I love how the British New Testament scholar N.T. Wright reminds us of our role as we share the Gospel with others. At times, we may feel like forcing others to accept Jesus, since we can’t understand why anyone would resist all that God offers, but we know it is a decision that each individual must make on their own.
So, while we can’t and shouldn’t force others into a decision, we must always be ready to share and persuade others as they are investigating the nature of God and faith. That’s what 1 Peter 3:15 states:
“. . . but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV)
In order to challenge, or as 1 Peter 3:15 says “make a defense”, we must
- Always be prepared!
- Let the hope that is in us shine forth!
- Respond with gentleness and respect!
What a challenge before us! Let me reiterate these in more practical terms:
- Are you prepared to share with others who Jesus is, and articulate the Christian position on an issue?
- Can people see you’re a Christian before you speak?
- As you start to share, does it usually prompt more conversations, or anger and withdrawal?
Please know I am not proposing, and neither does N.T. Wright, that everyone has to become scholars with numerous letters after their last name. But unfortunately it’s become empirically evident today that the average Christian is woefully prepared to “make a defense” of his or her faith. And invariably, I believe the responsibility does reside with Christians, in that only 19% admit to reading their Bible daily, but also with church leaders for not equipping and urging Christians to be better prepared!
The needed remedy is multifaceted, but any remedy should begin with a commitment to abide in the Word of God, and also becoming savvier in the art of persuasion, making the most of every opportunity we have to share the reason for the hope within us. Otherwise, “unfaith” will not be challenged, as it must, but continue to actually flourish, gaining perceived support from faulty and meager worldviews.
“Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This could not be said any better! Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who refused to capitulate to Nazism, and eventually was executed by order of Hitler, beautifully captures the truth of God, and the tension that will always exist in culture.
Of great concern to me is that so many Christians in 21st Century America don’t see much of a difference between the Christian lifestyle and contemporary American culture. In their eyes, the tension between God’s truth and present culture has vanished, but in reality, the two are diametrically opposed to each other, as Bonhoeffer beautifully articulated.
And, notice what else Bonhoeffer stresses: what the culture seemingly holds in high esteem, is “infinite worthlessness”, and what is truly of value, is deemed by culture “worthless”. May we learn from Bonhoeffer that there are things worth standing up for, things of infinite worth, and even worth dying for!
Didn’t Jesus also teach us that?