“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… for in it the righteousness of God is revealed.” Romans 1:16-17
If you ask the average person what makes them anxious and fearful about the future, the answers will vary. Fluctuations in a retirement account, the loss of a loved one and the possibility of being left alone, getting a disease, having a wayward child, and losing a job are among our top anxiety producers. While these experiences are different in some ways, they all
have one thing in common: the moment we die, they will no longer cause us fear.
That doesn’t mean these things are not important; it simply means they are not ultimate. There is a future beyond these things and beyond this life. Can we face that future without fear? If so, how?
Five hundred years ago a man lived in anxiety and fear over concern for his future. He was concerned for his soul because he knew that, as a soul created by God, the ultimate concern is being rightly related to him. Right standing before God would determine the eternal future of his soul. The thought of such things put him in terror. How could he be right with God, and how could he have assurance of being so?
That man was Martin Luther. When he about the righteousness of God in the Bible, he understood that only that God is perfect, and that his standard for us is perfection. Luther sensed that, no matter how many prayers he said or good works he performed, he could not be as righteous as God required. No matter how devoted he was to the church, he could not achieve the assurance that he was right with God. Luther lived with anxiety and fear. Eventually, his fear of failing to live up to God’s standard led him to fear God, and then to hate him. God, for Luther, was too righteous and too exacting for him to bear.
Then, reading the book of Romans, Luther was led to a new understanding of God’s righteousness. He still saw God as holy and perfect, and holiness as being the standard for being rightly related to him. But, he also saw that righteousness is not something that we achieve, but something that God grants. Righteousness is a gift.
To say that righteousness is a gift does not mean that it is not real, that it is made up, or that God pretends that we are righteous when we are not. Jesus Christ is righteous. By faith in him, we are granted his righteousness. God, as a gift to us, counts Christ’s righteousness as ours. God puts us right with himself by grace, through faith, in Christ, alone.
When Luther saw these things, his fear faded by the power of truth. Now at peace, he came to love the God he once hated.
Does Luther’s story awaken in you the hope of having peace with God and facing the future without fear? Read Romans 3:21-28. You will see these things yourself. And, join us this Sunday at Grace. We will take a deeper look at this good news.