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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A Friend’s Advice

Perfume and incense make you feel good, and so does good advice from a friend – Proverbs 27:9

Nothing is sweeter

than the frank advice

of a friend offered

out of a loving heart.

Just as perfume pleases

the senses and lifts your spirit

so does sharing your troubles

with someone who cares

the burden is lifted

and the heart is made light.

You can trust your friend

to be honest with you even

if it hurts.

Perfume is sometimes overpowering

almost suffocating like

unwanted advice or those who

deceive or flatter us, telling us

what they think we want to hear

rather than what we need to know.

It is the friend that sticks closer

than a brother or sister

whose counsel is like

a pleasant fragrance to

the soul.

 

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Sources:  Bible Gateway; Matthew Henry’s Commentary

 

 

A Changed Life

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John 4:1-26

When Jesus brings to your awareness a sin in your life what do you do?  The Samaritan woman acknowledged hers.  When Jesus told her to go and fetch her husband, she admitted that she was not married.  Jesus commended her on her honesty.  When there is sin in our lives, we have to face up to it.  We have to call it what it is.  And we don’t make excuses.  Jesus went to let her know that He was aware that she had been married five times before she got into the current relationship.  Perhaps after five failed marriages, she didn’t want to get married again.  She didn’t want another failed marriage.  So, she settled for living common law.  No doubt people gossiped about her.  She probably felt like a scorned woman and that was why she went to the water to draw water at a time when no one else was there.

She might have been surprised to see Jesus and more so when He spoke to her, asking her for a drink of water.  Jews did not any dealings with Samaritans.  And in that day and age it was not customary for a man to speak to a strange woman.  Jesus had no problem doing both.  In His eyes this was a lost soul whom He wanted to save.

No matter what you have done or how others treat you, Jesus wants to have a conversation with you.  He wants to offer you what no one else can–unconditional love,  forgiveness and eternal life.  He will not condemn you.  Like the woman caught in adultery, He will tell you to stop sinning.  And He will help you to change your life.  We don’t know what happened to the Samaritan woman after she went to tell her community about Jesus.  We don’t know what became of her relationship.  However, we do know that her life was never the same after she met Jesus.  An encounter with Jesus should lead to a changed life.  Zacchaeus became a new person after spending time with Jesus.

When Jesus points out sin in your life, acknowledge it, confess it and repent.  He will give you the victory.

All God Requires

Sometime ago I saw Deuteronomy 10:12, 13 written down on a sheet of paper and decided to look the verses up.

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12, 13).

God who has done so much for us doesn’t require much from us at all.  All He wants is for us to have godly fear, walk in obedience to His ways, genuinely love and serve Him and keep His commandments.  This isn’t asking for much considering that it was God who sacrificed His Son to a horrible death just so we could have eternal life.  Jesus suffered the death we deserve so that we could have the life He deserved.  And all we need to do in return is reverence, obey and serve Him.  And it is important to note that we are not called to worship any god but the Creator Himself.  Verse 14 says:   “Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.” 

This is the essence of the law.  Fear, obey, love, serve the God who created you.  And once you do that loving the rest of His creation—others like you, should come easy.