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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The Good Soil

As she planted the bean seeds in the rich soil, she

thought of the parable Jesus told about the sower.

The sower was sowing seed which was the Word

of God.  The seed fell among different types of places/soil.

Which type of soil was she?  Was she the rocky soil

which represented those who hear the message, receive

it with joy but since they don’t have deep roots, they believe

for a while and then fall away when they face temptation?

 

Or was she the thorns which represented those who hear

the message, but the message is quickly crowded out by

the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they

never grow into maturity?

 

Or was she the good soil which represented honest,

good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to

it, and patiently produce a huge harvest?

 

She did not believe that she was the wayside which

represented those who hear the message, only to have the

devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent

them from believing and being saved.

 

Which soil was she?  There were times when she was

so busy that she didn’t have time to read her Bible

and most of the time she fell asleep while praying.

When things got tough or she was faced with

temptation, she vacillated between going to God

in prayer and trying to handle the problem on

her own.

 

Which soil was she?  She had her moments when

she talked about the Bible with those who cared

to listen.  Was she making a difference, though?

Were the seeds that she planted germinating

in that person’s life?  What about her own

spiritual growth?

 

She knew which soil she wanted to be but, first

she had to let the Word of God take root and

grow in her.  Only then could she bear good fruit.

 

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Source:  Blue Letter Bible

Love Came Down

He left the glory of heaven to come into our world.  He was willing to rearrange His life so that He could come here and live and walk among us. He traded in His majesty for our humanity.  He left His home to come to a place where He had nowhere to lay His head. He left the adoration of the angelic host to come to a world that did not know Him and to His own who did not receive Him.

He left everything to come into a world that was plunged in darkness, filled with sorrow, sickness, hurt, violence and pain. Why?  Why did He come?  Would you come to a place where you would be rejected, unappreciated, opposed and despised?  He did. Would you reach out to people who are always trying to trap you and challenge everything you say or do?  He did.  Would you wash the feet of the man who would betray you and share bread with him?  He did.  Would you forgive the man who denied three times that he knew you?  He did.  What about those who spat on you, mocked you and wanted you dead, would you forgive them?  He did.

Why would Jesus subject Himself to such improprieties?  It’s simple.  Love.  He did it all for love.  Love for the Father and love for us.

Love filled His heart as He walked the streets, touching, healing and ministering to people.  Love filled His heart as He drove the demons out so that the person was in his right mind again.  Love filled His heart as He gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk and the dumb speak.  It was love that filled His heart when He touched the leper instead of just speaking the healing.  His word was just as powerful as His touch but He chose to touch the untouchable.

It was love which prompted Him to forgive the paralyzed man because He saw the man’s true need.  Everyone saw his physical need but Jesus saw his spiritual need and He responded to it.  It was love that made Him encourage the widow of Nain not to weep before He touched her son’s dead body, giving him life again.

It was love that broke down barriers when He offered salvation to the Samaritan woman at the well and healed the daughter of the Greek woman.  Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans (John 4:9). There was animosity between the two groups.  And women were not highly regarded.  In fact, when a Jewish man started off his day with prayer, he thanked God that he was neither a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.  Gentiles were seen as in a very unfavorable light. They were seen as unclean or common (Acts 10:28).  It was unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with them or go to their homes. So, these two women had two strikes against them–their nationalities and their gender.  Yet, to Jesus these things didn’t matter.  He loved them and wanted to offer them what the world couldn’t.

It was love that made Him call the woman with the bleeding problem, “Daughter” and offer her words of encouragement.  He wanted to assure her that her faith had made her well.  And it was love that made Him look up at the despised tax collector up in the tree and invite Himself to his home for food and fellowship.  It was in love that He reached out the unreachable, the unloved, the discarded, the neglected and the undesirables.  His love knew no boundaries, no barriers.  It was freely given but not always received or returned.

It was love for you and me that made Him endure the insults, the whipping and finally the Cross.  He bore the indignity of being nailed to a tree between two thieves, treated like a criminal although He had done nothing wrong.  Yet, He did all of this so that believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life and that the world through Him might be saved.

Love came down to save a perishing world.

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself – John 12:32

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Sources:  John 1, 3; Christian Courier

Jesus Saved Us

“Who would dare to accuse us, whom God has chosen? The judge himself has declared us free from sin. Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us!” (Romans 8:33, 34, Philipps).

Tears came to my eyes when I read these scriptures.  Jesus was in a position to condemn us but He died for us instead.  John 3:17 states:  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  Jesus came to save.  An example of this is when the woman caught in adultery was brought to Him.  Her accusers wanted to stone her to death according to the moral law.  Jesus said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). Of course, when the woman’s accusers heard this, their consciences bothered them to the point where they dropped the stones and walked away, the older ones first.

When Jesus was alone with the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.”

Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Jesus saved this woman from death.  He did not condemn her but showed her grace.  He died for her and for us.  Then He rose, giving us hope of the eternal life we can have once we accept and believe in Him and victory over the wages of sin which is death.  He stands at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.

God’s Love

To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love, not in that fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins (1 John 4:9, 10, Phillips).

When I read this, tears came to my eyes.  God loved us first.  He created us in love.  He loves us so much that He sent His Son to atone for our sins.  Jesus died in our place.  He died for our sins so that we could be saved.  It is not God’s desire that anyone should perish.  He wants everyone to accept Jesus as their Savior so that they would not perish but have everlasting life.

Paul states that the proof of God’s love is that while we were sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).   Imagine.  God loves sinners.  He sent His Son to die for sinners.  He died for the ungodly.  Jesus died when we, sinners, needed a Savior.  God sent His only Son so that through Him He could reconcile us to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).  It was when we were powerless to save ourselves and about to perish that God interceded and sent His Son at just the right time to die for us sinners. 

When we look at the cross, we should not just see it as an instrument of death and suffering but as the depth of God’s love.  Paul explains this in verse 9, “So, now that we have been made righteous by his blood, we can be even more certain that we will be saved from God’s wrath through him.” 

But when the kindness of God our saviour and his love towards man appeared, he saved us – not by virtue of any moral achievements of ours, but by the cleansing power of a new birth and the moral renewal of the Holy Spirit, which he gave us so generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour. The result is that we are acquitted by his grace, and can look forward to inheriting life for evermore. This is solid truth. (Titus 3:3-8a, Phillips).