Saved by Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

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Scala Sancta (Pilate’s Staircase) in Rome

Years ago I stood watching people ascend what is commonly known as Pilate’s Staircase.  Just today my family and I were talking about it and I got emotional as I thought of the people I saw going up the stairs on their knees just as Martin Luther did in 1510, probably repeating as he did the Our Father on each step.  It was said that by doing this work one could “redeem a soul from purgatory.”  It is believed that this staircase, Scala Sancta, that was used by Jesus in Pilate’s Judgment Hall in Jerusalem was, according to legend, supernaturally transported from Palestine to Rome.

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Figures of Pilate and Jesus at base of Scala Sancta

At the base of the staircase are the statues of Jesus and Pilate.  Pilate is introducing the King of the Jews to the people and saying, “Behold the Man!”  This reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15).  By beholding the serpent, the people were saved by faith.  Likewise by beholding Jesus and believing in Him, we are saved.  

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Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther in the movie, Luther

It was here on the Scala Sancta that the unexpected happened for Martin Luther.  It was where his eyes were opened to the truth that salvation comes by the grace of God and not by works.  One day, “he was devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him:  ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Romans 1:17.  He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror.  The text never lost its power upon his soul.  From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy in trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ.  His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy.  When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.” 

Before his revelation, “Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome.”  However, once he received the unvarnished truth, Luther could no longer remain loyal to the church which promised indulgences to those climbing the staircase on their knees or whose clergy he found profanation instead of sanctity.  His disillusionment with the church led to his part in the Protestant Reformation.  He was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders trusted in the traditions of men instead of the Word of God.  Today, where are you placing your faith?  In the teachings of men or in the teachings of God?

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Great Controversy; Wikipedia

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Love’s Ultimate Sacrifice

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; He has put him to grief.
    If he made himself as an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days,
    and the good pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand – Isaiah 53:10

Jesus on the cross

Whenever I watch the scenes of Jesus getting beaten, mocked and nailed to the cross, I cry.  It hurts to see the suffering and humiliation He went through.  Yet, it says that it pleased the Father to crush Him and make Him suffer.  Why?  It was the Father’s will that His Son would carry out the plan of salvation.  It pleased God that His Son willingly offered Himself.  Jesus explained why the plan of salvation was so important to the Father.   “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  God bestowed His Son as a Gift.  He didn’t send Him into the world to condemn us but to save us and to give us life.   And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11).  

When God gave us His Son, He gave us much more than we could even imagine or deserve.  Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Can you imagine, instead of facing death for your sins, you receive the gift of life instead?  Instead of facing God’s wrath, you receive His grace?  This is why it pleased God to offer up His Son.  When Jesus laid down His life, He provided a way for us to be reconciled to the Father.  Sin had separated us from Him.  We were God’s enemies yet, He showed His love for us when He sent His Son to die in our place (Romans 5:8).  God wanted to reconcile with us but that could only happen through Jesus’ death.  Without the shedding of blood, there could be no forgiveness or pardon from sin (Hebrews 9:22).  It pleased God to send His Son, “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).

God’s love for us is so profound that He went to great lengths to save us.  How many of us would have made such a supreme sacrifice?  Yes, the plan of salvation brought great suffering to Jesus but the reward is that those who believe in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.  Yes, it pleased God to set us free from sin and this freedom can only be found in His beloved Son. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your precious Son to suffer and die in our place.  He died so that we could live.  He bore and died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to You.  Thank You for Your grace and unfailing love and mercy.  Thank You for the gift of salvation.   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Love Hangs On

There is an image that will forever be imprinted on Cindy’s mind.  It is what keeps her going when she wants to give up.  Recently, her son had been acting up at school and she was struggling to deal with why he was taking what didn’t belong to him and lying about it.  She had been crushed by such despair that she just wanted to throw in the towel and resign herself to the idea that it was no use trying to fix this problem.  She and her husband had talked to him many times about the consequences of wrongdoing. They read Bible stories to him stories to illustrate how important it was to do what was right.  But it seemed to be a waste of time.  She cried when she read the teacher’s note, wondering what had happened to her precious little boy who would never have thought of taking other people’s things and telling lies.

She had prayed to God about it but the discouragement and disappointment were overwhelming.  During her morning worship one day, she was frank with the Lord, telling him that she didn’t know what else to do.  Talking to Joey, reading verses from the book of Proverbs which urged children to listen to their parents and even spanking him didn’t seem to be working.  She had run out of options.  Then, the image which she always held dear to her heart, filled her mind.  She saw her son in the hospital, wrapped in a blanket, his head covered and only his tiny face  was exposed.  She would never forget looking into those big, beautiful eyes as they stared up at her.  This was her child.  The son she and her husband had prayed for.  This was God’s precious gift to them.

As the image lingered, she heard the Lord say, “Do it for him.”  God was encouraging her not to give up on that little baby who was looking up at her with such trust.  He was seven now but somewhere in there was that sweet child that had filled her heart such love.  It was this love that she was to tap into to help him.  God doesn’t give up on His children, no matter how long it takes or how hard, so she couldn’t give up on Joey.  Joey was a loving, kind and thoughtful child but he was doing bad things. She and his Dad had to find out why and then deal with it with God’s help.  God told her to talk to Joey, not at him and then listen to him.

She realized that lately she had been lecturing Joey and talking while he was trying to say something.  And it had been a while since she had spent any time with him.  Was it her fault that Joey was acting up?  Then, she pushed that thought away.  The enemy would love for her to blame herself but she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction.  She knew that she and her husband were raising Joey the best they knew how, in a Godly home.  They would do whatever was necessary to help him but the choice, decision to stop doing what was wrong was his.  She was not going to give up without a fight, though.  Armed with hope and a mother’s fierce love, she was going to hang on to her child and not let go until it was safe to do so.   And one day he was going to thank her for not letting go of the child he used to be so that he could become the exceptional man God knew he could be.

Love suffers long and is kind; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails – 1 Corinthians 13:4, 7, 8

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