Devotional Word for Tuesday, February 16, 2021
One of the ideas that we have stressed through this devotional series is the reality that our righteousness is not on the basis of our deeds. We are made righteous by grace through FAITH. If we are not careful, sometimes we treat our faith as a work. In effect we say, “Look at what great faith I have!” This is to say that we treat faith as something that we build up by our own character, wisdom, and courage. If that is our attitude, then we must recognize that the “faith” we are claiming is nothing more than a deed of righteousness. It is a product of our own efforts and as such will fail in the judgment of God. What are we to do?
Question 65 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks, “Since, then, faith alone makes us share in Christ and all His benefits, where does such faith originate?” In simple terms, where does our faith come from? The answer says, “The Holy Spirit creates it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.” The first important claim of this answer is that the Holy Spirit creates faith in us. We might wonder where such an idea comes from. Turn with me to Ephesians 2:8. It says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Our faith is a gift. It is not something that we earn or work to get. We understand that the Holy Spirit is the one working in us because of Ezekiel 36:26-27. It says, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” The Holy Spirit works within us to change our hearts so that as we hear the Word of God, we see Jesus. The Gospel no longer carries the stench of death but the fragrance of new life. This faith is further confirmed by the use of holy sacraments.
Question 66 asks the obvious follow up. It says, “What are the sacraments?” The answer responds, “They are visible, holy signs and seals instituted by God in order that by their use He may the more fully disclose and seal to us the promise of the gospel, namely, that because of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross He graciously grants us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.” Lord willing, we will look more at the nature of sacraments later in this week. For now, I would like to draw your attention to the first part of the answer. Sacraments are visible (that means you can see them) signs and seals. A sign is a marker that indicates something else. There is an amazing sign hanging on U.S. highway 24 very near where I grew up. It has the name Peru with an arrow pointing to the left and the name Mexico with an arrow pointing to the right. This sign indicates or directs to the towns of Peru and Mexico. The sign is not the town. It points to the town. In the same way, the sacraments point God’s people to the promise of the gospel. A seal is a confirmation of something. Letters often carry a seal which conveys the authority and might of the one who wrote it. In a similar way, the sacraments seal on the participants is the promise of the gospel.
Just to be clear the promise of the gospel is the forgiveness of sins and eternal life that results from the Lord Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. When I, by the Holy Spirit working within me, call upon Jesus Christ as my Lord and my Savior, my sins are forgiven, and I am confirmed in my faith by the use of the sacraments. Let us pray.