A Gospel Prayer for Reformation Sunday
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Rom. 3:21-26
Dear Lord Jesus, how could your church ever forget, lose or reject this glorious gospel? What circumstances created the necessity for Martin Luther to nail his Ninety-Five Theses to the front door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517? Why would weever choose some other way of salvation over the way of grace? Rhetorical questions indeed, for I know my own proud and foolish heart.
I know that by nature I’m allergic to grace; and by notion, I want to believe there’s something I can do to make God accept and love me. But the gospel declares me to be a whole lot worse off than I can imagine, and certainly a whole lot worse than I want to acknowledge. I wasn’t just distanced from God; I was dead in my sins and trespasses—running as fast and as far as I could from free grace. Such is the insanity of sin.
Why was there a need for the first Reformation? Because of people like me. Why will the church continue to lose and rediscover the gospel of your grace? Because of people like me.
Jesus, how I praise you for showing me the great depth of my need and the ceiling-less heights of your provision in the gospel. Earn my salvation, impress God with my works, merit heaven by my rules keeping? I could sooner sneeze an aircraft carrier into existence; click my heels and turn the moon into chocolate cheesecake; snap my fingers and watch Niagara Falls reverse directions! O the arrogance of works righteousness. O the despair of works righteousness.
You’re no mere moral model to follow; you’re my perfect righteousness to wear. You don’t give second chances to sincere people, you give new life to rebels, fools and idolaters, like me. I needed you to fulfill all the demands of the law for me; and that is what you did by your life of perfect obedience. I needed you to absorb all the judgment and wrath I deserve from God; and that is what you accomplished once-and-for-all by your death on the cross.
I needed you to begin a good work in me by your Spirit and that you will complete by your Spirit; and that is what you have signed on for by your resurrection. I need you to be my Advocate before the Father when I sin, not my cheerleader or coach when I fall; and that is who are you this very moment. I need and want you to come back and finish making all things new—in me, in your whole Bride, and in your broken cosmos; and that is precisely what you will do one Day. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus, on this Reformation Sunday, I once again affirm that my hope is built on nothingless, nothing more, and nothing other than your blood and your righteousness. On you, the solid and saving Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. Keep bringing me back to the gospel, Jesus; keep bringing me back to the gospel plus nothing for my everything. So very Amen I pray, in your most holy and gracious name.