It’s time to ponder faith and what it really is

By Rev. James Groleau

St. John Lutheran pastor

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Do we have anything to brag about? Bragging has been eliminated. On what basis was it eliminated? On the basis of our own efforts? No, indeed! Rather, it is eliminated on the basis of faith. We conclude that a person has God’s approval by faith, not by his own efforts. (Romans 3:27-28 God’s Word translation)

The 500-year anniversary of the Reformation is nearly upon us. It is a time to think back, and to give thanks. It is also a time to be changed. It is a time to be re-formed, as Christians. It is a time to ponder faith and what faith really is.

Opposites cannot occupy the same space at the same time. For example light and darkness cannot be present in the same place at the same time. Here’s a question for you. What is the opposite of faith? We might think the answer is unbelief but that is not what St. Paul teaches. In Romans it would seem that the opposite of faith is “boasting.” Paul says, “Bragging has been eliminated.” It is eliminated because of faith. Why does Paul pit boasting against faith?

First, boasting spends its time looking in the wrong direction. In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells a parable that makes this clear. There is a Pharisee who says, “God, I thank you that I’m not like others!” It becomes fairly obvious where the problem lies. You can boast while looking at everyone else. You can also boast while looking at yourself. Both are looking in the wrong direction.

The second thing about boasting is that it loves to talk about itself. Where boasting exists there cannot be faith. St. Paul says, “Bragging has been eliminated.” Then St. Paul asks, “On what basis was it eliminated? … It is eliminated on the basis of faith.”

Faith looks at the right thing. It looks in the right direction. God the Father has put Jesus before us. When He did that boasting was eliminated. What do you see when you look at Jesus? You see sacrifice through which guilt and filth are taken away. His bloody death makes you clean.

For a time God passed over sins. Then one day, a day called Good Friday, He eliminated all boasting. When you look around at what God did we are nowhere to be found. On that day there is only One to see. He is Jesus, the One who took the punishment for your boasting.

It does not end there. Jesus rose from the dead. So guilt is removed and death is undone! Faith looks at what God has done for us. It is Jesus who has the right to boast because He has won the victory for us! On the day Jesus died, and on the day that Jesus rose, boasting was eliminated because Jesus was there alone. Faith is silent. Faith lets Jesus do all the talking. Jesus said, “It is finished!”

Once Jesus has spoken faith has something to say. We now brag not about ourselves but about what Jesus has done for us. We brag about His victory and His gift of salvation. We brag about Him!

Jesus our Righteous Judge brags about you to His Father in Heaven. He says you are fully accepted. Through Jesus’ bragging you are made clean, holy, and perfect in the Father’s sight.

By yourself you cannot brag about anything but your failures. Look to Jesus. Look to His body and blood given and shed for you. In silence listen to Him as He says, “You belong to Me.” Listen to His bragging that says, “Satan, you are defeated!”

With all boasting eliminated in us we will have something holy to brag about. The name of Jesus. That was the point of the Reformation. To turn our eyes back to Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

This message of peace, acceptance and forgiveness is what you will hear every week at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Austin.

The Rev. James Groleau is pastor at St. John Lutheran Church, 1200 13th Ave NW, Austin. Reach him at (507) 433-2642.

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