Once again, I am up for the daily morning radio broadcast at KDSN in Denison, Iowa. What follows is a transcript of each day's devotion, which focused on the upcoming celebration of the Reformation.
Program number 1 for October 25th
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. As some of you may know, October 31st is Reformation Day. On that day the Lutheran Church celebrates the work of Martin Luther, a monk who God used mightily to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of the various churches that we see in our communities are various offshoots of the Reformation that Luther sparked. This week, I wanted to talk about Luther and the Reformation as we look toward Reformation Day on Sunday. Today we will set the stage by looking at Luther’s own struggle with sin, a struggle that led him to the four ‘alones’ of the Reformation, which we will talk about in the days to come, ‘Scripture alone,’ ‘grace alone,’ ‘faith alone,’ and ‘Christ alone.’
Luther’s life was filled with spiritual struggle and conflict. He was fully aware of his own sin and God’s punishment for that sin. Luther knew only of a God who judges, a God who condemns, and His condemnation is terrible, it is unavoidable, it is final. I think that we today have much to learn from Luther’s struggles. We are in a culture that dismisses sin- we are not conditioned to look at ourselves as sinners. But that is what you and I are. We can fight it all we want, you can tell our pastors to quit proclaiming it, but the simple fact is that we are poor, miserable sinners. And as we read in Romans, “The wages of sin is death.” Luther’s awareness of his own sin is something that we can all learn from, as it is only from an awareness of sin that we have any need for a merciful God. Those without sin have no need of a Savior.
This acute awareness of his own sin drove Luther to find salvation for himself. It drove him to the monestary, where he was an exemplary monk, and he followed each and every regulation and instruction to the letter. But he could not find peace. As he said himself: “Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience… I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.” The more he worked toward his own salvation, the more he was aware that he was reaching for an impossible goal. All he deserved was death, eternal death. He needed a Savior from sin, and thanks be to God he was turned to God’s holy Word, which shows us our sin, but much more importantly shows us our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, who shed His blood to pay for that sin. Much more on that great Gospel that was revealed through the Scriptures to Luther tomorrow!
Let us pray: Almighty, everlasting God, for our many sins we justly deserve eternal condemnation. In Your mercy You sent Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who won for us forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation. Grant us true confession that, dead to sin, we may be raised up by Your life-giving absolution. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may be ever watchful and live a true and godly life in your service; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen. God’s blessings on your day!
Program number 2 for October 26th
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. Yesterday we spoke of Luther’s awareness of his own sin. Luther knew that he was a sinner, and all he could see was an angry God ready to crush him for that sin. Luther was nearly driven to despair, but by the grace of God, he was delivered.
It was Scripture that saved Luther, and that is no surprise. God has a habit of changing hearts through His Word- He has been doing it since the Creation, and he has not stopped since. Luther was led through his struggles and anguish to Romans chapter one, verse seventeen: “For in [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” These words tortured him, as they gave a picture of a righteous God who condemned all those who did not live up to His righteousness. God, however, continued to work through His Word. Finally, Luther realized that the righteousness demanded here was the righteousness of Christ given to us as a gift by faith. It was at that point that the Scriptures opened up for him, and for us! He said, “There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the Gospel, namely… the righteousness with which God clothes us when He justifies us.”
Jesus Christ was the one who fulfilled the requirements of the Law by becoming man, by taking on our human flesh. He was the one who faced the wrath of a just God over your sin, the one who died on the cross to fulfill all righteousness. On that Good Friday, Jesus hung upon that cross in your place, taking on the punishment that you deserved, and when He said ‘It is finished’ your salvation was completed. He shed His blood for you! He defeated your enemies- sin, death, and Satan. He dealt them a blow from which they will never recover when He stepped forth from the tomb on Easter morning. This same Jesus Christ then bestows on you His righteousness won on that cross through faith. This righteousness covers you like a robe so that when God looks at you from the judgment seat, He only sees Jesus. Righteousness is no longer an unattainable goal- in fact, it is not a goal at all, but a gift, a gift given to you through His shed blood. You are a poor, miserable sinner, but because of what Christ did for you, you are now saved from your sins, you do not have to fear the wrath of God. What wonderful news! The Scriptures all opened up for Luther to reveal the glorious narrative of God saving His fallen creation through the sacrifice of His Son. Therefore, the first great pillar of the Reformation is ‘Scripture alone.’ We’ll look at the next pillar, ‘grace alone,’ tomorrow morning.
Let us pray: Blessed lord, who has caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of your holy Word we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen. God’s blessings on your day!
Program number 3 for October 27th
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. Yesterday we heard about how Luther was turned from the crushing awareness of his sin to the pages of the Scriptures. Listen again to what he read in Romans chapter one: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” This week we do not celebrate a man or even a movement, but instead we commemorate the Gospel, and God’s chosen instruments used to proclaim that Gospel clearly. God chose a simple Augustinian monk from Germany to reform the Church, to create a movement that would result in the Gospel once again being clearly proclaimed. This should be no surprise to any of us. God has a certain habit of using means, whether it is water, bread and wine, or the sinful lips of a pastor. He takes hold of those means and uses them to create and strengthen faith, He connects them with His Word in order to give life. But because He likes to use sinful human beings, you, me, and many others throughout history as His means, the proclamation of the Gospel rarely occurs without trial or stumbling. Even Martin Luther, a figure that seems to tower over history, was a sinful human, and it would be his struggle with sin that would define the rediscovery of the Gospel.
Luther needed a God of grace because there was simply no way that he could achieve anything on his own. Grace alone was what was required, God’s free grace for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ. Saint Paul wrote in Ephesians chapter two: “For 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.” Grace is not truly grace unless it is a gift. It is something freely given to us by God, given to us when we could do nothing to earn it. In fact, it was given to us when we were completely opposed to God, in open rebellion against Him. That’s what makes God’s grace so amazing. Saint Paul says in Romans chapter five, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ died for you, for me, for all people, even those who nailed Him to the cross. What amazing love! What wondrous grace! This leads Luther to what I think is one of his more profound observations. He said that “we are beggars,” that is, we come before God empty-handed, with nothing to give Him but our sins, and yet He takes those sins and pays for them in His overwhelming grace. That is the kind of God we have. Thanks be to Him for His abundant grace!
Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, from Your hand we receive all good gifts and by your grace we are guarded from all evil. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that, acknowledging with our whole heart Your boundless goodness, we may now and evermore thank and praise You for Your loving-kindness and tender mercy; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen. God’s blessings on your day!
Program number 4 for October 28th
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. Earlier this week, we heard of how Martin Luther watched the Scriptures open up to him like a flower in the spring, revealing to him the great treasures that it held for him. Those Scriptures revealed to him a God of grace, who in loving-kindness sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins, to deliver us from death to live before Him forever. The only question that remained was: how do we receive this grace proclaimed by the Scriptures? Luther found the solution in the same passages that pointed him to ‘grace alone.’ We heard Paul say yesterday in Ephesians chapter two: “For 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.” For Luther, only faith could appropriate the free grace of Christ Jesus. In addition to ‘Scripture alone’ and ‘grace alone’ we now have ‘faith alone.’
But the thing about faith is that it is never alone. It always has an object, something to put its focus on. Faith does not focus on itself, it does not exist in a vacuum. Faith looks to Jesus Christ and Him alone, focusing on our Lord because He is the One who has delivered us by the shedding of His blood for us on the cross. Faith believes in the promises of God declared in Holy Scripture, the great promises of salvation through Jesus Christ. Faith alone saves us, but faith does not exist apart from the object of that faith, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Where does this faith come from? Luther emphatically denied that it came from anything in us. Instead, he declared in the explanation to the third article of the Apostle’s Creed in his Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” Only through the work of the Holy Spirit can we believe in Jesus and take hold of His free gifts. That is the amazing thing: not only is grace a free gift, but the faith which grasps onto that grace is a gift as well! Luther proclaimed the primacy of God-given faith throughout his life. His personal struggle had led him to see the folly of trying to earn his own way to God, and now he trumpeted faith alone as the means by which man is reconciled to God. Scripture alone showed him that grace alone won by Christ alone is the basis of our salvation, and that salvation is only appropriated and applied to us through faith alone.
Let us pray: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, because of Your tender love toward us sinners You have given us You Son that, believing in Him, we might have everlasting life. Continue to grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may remain steadfast in this faith to the end and finally come to life everlasting; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen. God’s blessings on your day!
Program number 5 for October 29th
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. Over the past three days, we have discussed ‘Scripture alone,’ ‘faith alone,’ and ‘grace alone.’ Having heard about those three ‘alones,’ it should be no surprise that the final ‘alone’ is Christ alone. Everything this week has been about Christ, and that makes perfect sense, because all of Luther’s life and work focused on Christ.
From the day when the Lord worked through His Word to bring him Jesus as his righteousness, Luther’s life focused around proclaiming and defending this message, this glorious Gospel of God’s free grace for the sake of Christ. Every sermon and every page that came from his pen dripped with the blood of Jesus, it revolved around Christ and Him alone. This focus on the Gospel also led Luther to highlight the Sacraments, those means by which God comes to sinful man, the means by which He comes to you. In Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Luther did not see something you do for God, but instead simply another way that God’s overflowing grace comes to you. Baptism encapsulated the Gospel, as the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given to you through water joined with the Word. In your baptism, you are clothed with Christ’s righteousness; you are one of those who, in the words of Revelation, are “coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” As Luther says in the Small Catechism: “Certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things… with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.”
In the Lord’s Supper, the fact that God took human flesh, becomes reality, a reality that you join in each and every time that you receive His Body and Blood. As he states in the Large Catechism: “Here you have both truths, that it is Christ’s body and blood and that these are yours as your treasure and gift. Christ’s body can never be an unfruitful, vain thing, impotent and useless.” When you receive the Lord’s Supper, you receive the very Body and Blood of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the same Body and Blood which was given and shed on the cross for all of your sins, and now it is given to you for the forgiveness of your sins. Luther always taught that salvation was accomplished on the cross, but it is distributed to His people in His Word and Sacraments- and it is distributed to you each and every Sunday in Christian churches throughout the world!
Let us pray: O God the Father, the fountain and source of all goodness, who in loving-kindness sent Your only-begotten Son into the flesh, we thank You that for His sake You have given us pardon and peace in this Sacrament, and we ask You not to forsake Your children but always to rule our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit that we may be enabled constantly to serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen. God’s blessings on your day!
Program number 6 for October 30th
Good morning! This is Rev. Christopher Maronde, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Kiron and Faith Lutheran Church in Deloit. This week we have journeyed from Luther’s awareness of his own sin and his desperate searching for a Savior to the pages of Holy Scripture, which revealed the grace of God in His Son Jesus Christ, given to the world and received by faith alone.
Luther’s goal was never reform for the sake of reform, or change simply for the sake of change. His goal was to proclaim the Gospel freely, detached from all had been added to it. He did not introduce anything new, but instead sought to restore what had been lost, to bring the Church back to its Scriptural roots. How do we follow in his footsteps? We do this first of all by defending the Gospel with everything we have, opposing any teaching that adds any ounce of our own effort or striving to the Gospel. This isn’t just a struggle between Christian churches and false teachers, this is first of all an internal struggle. That is what Luther was talking about when He spoke about a daily return to our Baptism. Listen to what he says in the Small Catechism: “What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” What we especially need daily repentance from is our own attempts to please God with our own righteousness, rather than trusting in the righteousness given by Christ alone. We despair of our own abilities to earn anything before God and instead throw ourselves on the mercies of Christ our Savior.
Secondly, we can follow in Luther’s footsteps by proclaiming this same Gospel, freely and clearly, to all whom you come into contact with. That is how the message of God’s free grace through Christ first spread in the earliest days of the Church, and things hardly changed in the days of the Reformation. From hundreds of pulpits and countless mouths came forth the message that God has been reconciled to His rebellious creation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Today things may seem much different than during the Reformation, but one thing hasn’t changed: all people need to hear about Jesus. The victory of Christ rings forth from every Christian, because we cannot help but speak of what God has done for us in Jesus. Thanks be to God for the victory He has given! Thanks be to God for giving us Martin Luther to proclaim to us that truth so clearly!
Let us pray: O God, our refuge and our strength, You raised up Your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your living Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Defend and purify the Church in our own day and grant that we may boldly proclaim Christ’s faithfulness unto death and His vindicating resurrection, which You made known to Your servant Martin through Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen. God’s blessings on your day!