"Salvation unto us has come, By God's free grace and favor; Good works cannot avert our doom, They help and save us never. Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, Who did for all the world atone; He is our one Redeemer.
"Faith clings to Jesus' cross alone, And rests in Him unceasing; And by its fruits true faith is known, With love and hope increasing. For faith alone can justify; Works serve our neighbor and supply, The proof that faith is living."
By now New Year's resolutions are being kept, whether sporadically or resolutely, or they have been abandoned. Through resolutions we seek to improve ourselves, our daily lives, or our relationships. Most resolutions, kept or not, begin with "I." "I will exercise more often." "I will be more patient this year."
We may also make well-intentioned promises concerning our spiritual lives: "I will go to church more often." "I will read the Bible every day." These are excellent resolutions, but try as we might, even our best, well-kept resolutions can never be sufficient to earn God's love and favor. Our relationship with God does not begin with our resolutions, but with His resolve. He chose us in Christ to be His own before there ever was a New Year, "before the foundation of the world" (see Ephesians 1:4). God's statements of resolve rightly begin with "I," because our salvation begins and finds its fulfillment in Him: "I will remember their sins no more." "I will have mercy." "I chose you." A right relationship with God begins with His "free grace and favor," that is, His undeserved favor for sinners.
Out of His gracious love, God sent His Son to be the world's Savior. The Lord Jesus Christ, "our one Redeemer," offered up His life as the perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. Calling us from death to life by the power of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit creates in our hearts the firm resolve of faith. And, as our hymn proclaims, it is a faith that "looks to Jesus Christ alone ... clings to Jesus' cross alone and rests in Him unceasing."
Faith in Jesus Christ, sustained in the power of the Spirit, ceaselessly looks to Jesus, clings to His cross and rests in Him—and serves others in His Name. The inward, invisible faith that is a gift of God's favor and resolve is made visible "by its fruits," that is, by its outward, visible works of love and service. Faith in Jesus our Redeemer places us into a right relationship with God as His precious sons and daughters. The good works that we do serve as outward proof of inward faith. In fact, even though the New Year's celebration is long past, a useful, daily resolution might be this: "I will, with the help of God, love my neighbor as myself!"
THE PRAYER: Jesus, Lord and Redeemer, as we cling to You by faith, help us by Your Spirit to make our faith known to the world through our words of witness and our acts of service. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "Salvation Unto Us Has Come," which is found on page 555 of the Lutheran Service Book.
1. Did you make any new year's resolution that you're still keeping? What was it?
2. Do you struggle with the idea of being saved by God's grace alone? Do you wish you could do something to contribute to your salvation?
3. How do your good and helpful works contribute to God's kingdom on earth?
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