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By Grace

Greetings All,

This weeks 'thought' comes from Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968). To say he was very influential during the early to mid-1900's is an understatement. Barth sought to remove from the Christian faith all the trappings of culture and politics and the many other things which had become entangled in it, insisting on a wholehearted return to the basics of the Christian faith.

Though known for his brilliance and the prophetic tone of his scholarship, he was once asked to sum up all he had written in the field of theology. He did so with the concise and famous remark:"Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Today's thought comes from a sermon he preached to prisoners at the Basle Prison in Switzerland, from Ephesians 2:5. It was entitled: "By Grace You Have Been Saved." It is found in the published collection of his addresses: "Deliverance to the Captives." Enjoy.

"You probably all know the legend of the rider who crossed the frozen Lake of Constance at night without knowing it. When he reached the opposite shore and was told whence he came, he broke down, horrified.

This is the human situation when the sky opens and the earth is bright, and we hear: By grace you have been saved! In such a moment we are like that terrified rider. When we hear this word we involuntarily look back, do we not, asking ourselves:

Where have I been?
Over an abyss, in mortal danger!
What did I do?
The most foolish thing I ever attempted!
What happened?
I was doomed and miraculously escaped and now I am safe!

You ask: 'Do we really live in such danger?' Yes, we live on the brink of death.

But we have been saved. Look at our Savior and at our Salvation! Look at Jesus Christ on the cross, accused, sentenced, and punished instead of

Do you know for whose sake he is hanging there? For our sake -- because of our sin -- sharing our captivity -- burdened with our suffering! He nails our life to the cross. This is how God had to deal with us. From this darkness he has saved us.

He who is not shattered after hearing this news may not yet have grasped the word of God: 'By grace you have been saved.' "

To think that we were "dead in our trespasses and sins," and needed the grace of regeneration before we could even respond to God or the Gospel; that we needed first to be raised to life, and that God by sheer grace did just that, making us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions and thus unable to respond to Him... it boggles the mind - does it not? In fact, on occasion, it has reduced me to tears. Tears of heart-felt gratitude.

God gave life to my spiritually dead soul that I might live and believe, and the result of my belief was a justification (or right standing with God) that only brought a greater degree of life! It wasn't faith that made me alive, it was being made alive that enabled me to have faith! The dead don't exercise faith until after they've been given life by the sheer unfathomable grace of God, which means that even the faith by which I'm saved is in itself a gift of His grace. He doesn't believe for me, but I couldn't have believed unless He'd made me alive. After all, as Paul goes on to remind us in verses 8-9 of this same chapter, we are not saved by faith, we are saved by GRACE, through faith... Is there any greater blessing, or any greater message, than the Gospel declaration:

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live, when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air... But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved."
Ephesians 2:1, 5

Rejoicing with you in the unspeakable love and grace of God,

Pastor Jeff