Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ

The Festival of the Reformation

Sermon Text: Ephesians 2:8-9

Peace be unto you from the Lord of the Church, its Sovereign Head, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

So, what should we talk about? Odd question, I know, on this very special day. The word “reformation” certainly gives it away, but it may not say it all. To this, it would be fitting to add the words “restoration” and “preservation.”

What was reformed was the Christian church here on earth as it was cleansed of so many impurities and pollutants that had been added over time, sad to say, by the very men who were entrusted to keep it pure and undefiled.

What was restored was literally the one true Christian faith solidly and solely centered in… centered on… Christ Jesus.

What as preserved was the Holy Word of God and the central message of that Word. We know it as the “Doctrine of Justification” … a fancy term for a very simple and extraordinary reality… the fact that you and I are made right, just and holy in the sight of Almighty God not by our works or ANY effort on our part… but solely by the work of Christ and what He accomplished for us men and for our salvation on the cross at Calvary.

The Doctrine of Justification can be summed up, and it is truly the joy of every Christian to declare: “Thy works, not mine, O Christ… the benefits, blessings and treasures… all mine!”

We read in Ephesians,

“By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

What we can also talk about and remember on this the Festival of the Reformation is how the Lord our God worked so mightily in the life of Martin Luther and many others to effect this great reformation, restoration and preservation… faithful men and women whose story is truly an amazing one, filled with courage and fortitude, faithfulness, unselfishness, and true love for the Lord and His Church. By the mighty working of the Holy Spirit, these saints of old risked it all that we might have it all… all that is ours, that is, in Christ Jesus.

But my friends, if all that takes place here this morning is a discussion of WHAT happened and by WHOM, regardless of how important and critical it all was then… now and for all time… it would nevertheless be sad and disheartening.

Why? Because it would mean that you and I would leave this sanctuary and just go home… just go about our daily business and individual lives as usual. May that not be. May it never be coming from this sacred place, standing on this most holy ground.

Beyond the knowing of the “what” and the “whom”… we pray that there may be application of the same… the application of the Reformation in our very lives… our daily lives. The application of the Reformation in our very hearts and homes.

“Done and done” you say? Great! That means there exists no doubt that you are completely saved from sin, death and the devil.

There is no doubt that you are the Lord’s and that He is seeing you through all things in this life… through every issue and event, every obstacle and occasion.

There is no doubt that when you die you will most certainly, without a doubt, be with your Lord in heaven.

It means there is never any wondering on your part if you have done enough… if you are good enough… worthy enough to be blest in time and in eternity.

There is no confusion regarding the Doctrine of Justification which is all about what Christ alone did… what He alone accomplished… and the Doctrine of Sanctification which is all about what we as God’s redeemed… as His blessed children now have the joy of doing… the joy of serving… the joy of living each day as the Lord’s own.

Also, if the impact of the Reformation is truly being lived out and applied, it is happening in all areas and arenas of our lives. Here in the church… in our homes… at work or school and out in the world. Wherever and whenever, we are always connected to Christ and focused on the cross.

Is this so? For all of us… in some way… to some degree… at some time, various times… the answer is clearly no. There is yet to be a far greater application of the Reformation and the reality of the same in our lives. And we can either look at this as either a failure and a flaw on our part… or as a blessed opportunity.

Here’s a suggestion… let’s take the opportunity:

… the opportunity, for example, to consider all that is meant in our Gospel lesson where it says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Well, the one happened… the very Son of God did set us free… and the other is certainly the result. We are free and we have the joy of considering what this freedom fully means, including the freedom of never having to fear, never having to worry, never having to wonder what will happen… what will be the outcome.

Also, my friends, we have the opportunity to consider again and again that each and every sin we have committed and will commit has been paid in full, cancelled out, blotted out at the greatest of costs not to us, but to our dear Savior, Jesus Christ.

We have the opportunity to consider again and again the reality of the statement “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.”

We have the opportunity to hear again and again the Word of God preached and taught in its true and entirety that we may know more, be at peace more, be strengthened more, guided more, comforted more, e and more… and the list goes on.

How many times have we talked about the fact that as Christians we can so easily take much for granted? We can so easily get all caught up in ourselves and in this world that we fail to remember… we fail to celebrate.

That is why we have such feasts and festivals. Today, it’s the Reformation. Next Sunday it is All Saint’s. Soon it will be a Day of Thanksgiving, then the Advent Season, the Christmas Season and the birth of our Lord… Epiphany… the Lenten and the Easter Seasons with our blessed Savior’s death and resurrection. Then His Ascension. Then the Day of Pentecost… opportunities all of them… essential all of them along with all of the Sundays and weekdays in the Church Year to keep our eyes, our hearts and minds fixed not on things below… not on that which is meaningless and swiftly passing away, but on things above… that which is glorious and eternal.

Rejoice, dearly beloved, in all that is ours. Let us give unceasing thanks for what are truly priceless gifts. None of them earned. Indeed, “Thy Works Not Mine O Christ… to You with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be all glory and honor, now and forevermore. Amen.”

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

“Thy Works Not Mine O Christ”
10/30/16 The Rev. Mark H. Hein
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL