This past October 31 marked the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg which ignited the fire of the Reformation. I have loved learning about Reformation history ever since I took a class on Martin Luther in college. What’s so special about Reformation history? There is so much GRACE there! In the years leading up to the Reformation, the church had become an institution of ungrace. Martin Luther suffered under this ungrace, trying to find forgiveness and reconciliation with God through works and deprivation – until he read in God’s word that salvation comes by grace alone – sola gratia. It is a gift to be received rather than a prize to be earned. This so changed him that he wrote prolifically to share this good news with others.
Soon after Reformation Day, we celebrate Thanksgiving. I spoke to my students about both of these holidays in my November chapel. We looked at the word gratia and recognized its similarity to other “grace words” such as grateful, gratitude, gratuity, gracias, and so on. We discovered a link between grace and thankfulness. In fact, we “say grace” before a meal to thank God for the food He has provided. The appropriate response to grace received is a grateful heart. Why? Because by its very definition, we don’t deserve it. Whenever we receive good things that are unmerited, it tends to well up in us an overflowing emotion of gratitude.
The string of grace-filled holidays has led to the most grace-filled celebration of all — the coming of Christ. The most shocking event in world history was when God Himself took on the form of His creatures, in the person of His Son, to walk among us, to be Immanuel, God with us. But He came not only to be present and walk in our shoes, as it were, but also to do for us what we could not do for ourselves – to save us from our sin and restore for us a right relationship with God. He did this gratis – for free. It costs us nothing, but cost Him everything.
As I reflect on the year that is coming to a close and look forward to the year about to dawn, I am so grateful for all of the gifts of grace in my life – especially for the forgiveness I have received for my sins and the opportunity to live my life for Christ, Who gave His life for me. I so often fall short, but God gives grace upon grace.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.