Reformation 2014: Here I Stand

BAM!  Did you see his face?  I wonder what he really looked like…the color movie that came out around 10 years ago had him a bit calmer, but still pretty shaky.  Now we come to the important part of this though- why?  Why shaky?  Why emotional?  Why say “HERE I STAND- I can’t take any of it back!” in front of the very people that, upon hearing those words, were sure to try to kill him?  Because Luther got into our text for today- and the whole book that surrounded it, and saw something that he would stand, and fall upon- gladly, willingly, courageously, graciously, faithfully, Scripturally- He had found forgiveness.  He found peace.  He found grace.  He was brought to what he had been missing for over 30 years of his life- redemption through Jesus Christ alone.  And he was willing to stand upon that- even if it meant death.    BAM indeed!

When was the last time you felt that?  I pray you do today.  Because God knows that all of us need this- every one of us- every single day- that “Here I Stand” moment of Luther.  Well, when the times come and you do, read Romans 3 and know that it’s talking about you too.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

Have you ever seen someone take smelling salts before…(illustration).  That’s what the law does- and Luther was fully conscious of his sin.  So he would beat himself. He would starve himself. He would pray until he was exhausted- all to try to earn the forgiveness of a righteous God.  But what did he get when he smacked himself down with the law?  Exactly what Paul said- he was made conscious of his sin.  And I think that’s something we’re pretty good at too, right?  (Examples of being a failure- as a parent, as a spouse, as a child, as a student, as a coworker, as a church member, as a councilman) We don’t need to work too hard to convince ourselves that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  So we indeed are in league with Luther.  Maybe that’s why we’re called “Lutherans” right?  Because we’re so good at making ourselves feel despicable for our sins, right?  WRONG!

When Luther discovered the words of Romans (his lectures on Galatians helped him even more…), there was nothing that would keep him from taking his stand ever again.  Because Luther finally was led to see that it was never about Luther.  Just like we never make it about Luther.  But it was about Christ.  And it was about grace.  And it was about the Word.  For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.  And that’s what it is today too.  You know, if it was up to Luther, we’d be called evangelicals.  That’s right evangelicals, we had the name first.  But the followers and supporters of the pope in Lutherland- known as Papists, they called those getting into the Word and it’s truth Lutherans.  And so the early Lutheran church coined the phrase themselves.  As I spoke with someone new to Lutheranism about that there comment was, “ to kind of stick it to the man, huh?”  Yes?  Yes.  So here we are today, we crazy Lutherans.  And I am proud to bear that name.  Because it means that the most important thing to me is not the world, nor is it my works, nor is it my guilt, but it is grace.  Faith.  Scripture.  And at the heart of it all is Christ.

The true center of who we are, is what we have been made.  And the true center of what we have been made, is through him who made us.  21 For now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

You have been set free.  Your guilt has been atoned for.  You are one with God. What does that mean to you?  I mean, really, truly, what does that mean to you?  I can stand up here and preach all day- but at the end, they will just be my Word.  You have heard God’s Word. What does this mean to you?  There came a time in Luther’s life when, after being steeped in the Word, he had a “tower experience”- a time when he was alone with his Lord and read that he was saved by grace through faith through Jesus Christ.  And it changed his world.  But that was a moment he would have every time he got into the Word.  Every time he saw the cross of his Jesus before him. Every time he saw the women’s reaction when the risen Lord appeared before them and said, “Do not ever be afraid again!”  Every time he heard the Word of Christ looking at his disciples before he ascended into heaven and heard him say, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation!”  Every time he looked ahead to being with Jesus in heaven- Luther had the “experience” but it wasn’t about the experience- it was about the Word.  It was about Christ.  And it’s time for us to go there too; to go through a reformation every day- in our hearts and in our lives; to go back to Christ and see his work for our salvation.  And to stand firm, dear friends.  To join with Luther with quivering lips and cheeks, filled with the excitement of the Gospel, nervous with what our statements of faith will bring, but willing to go to death for the freedom of Christ.  And know what this here I stand moment really is.  For Luther, and for us.  To Jesus alone be the glory, honor and praise!  Amen!

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