Luther, Works, and Faith

I find it amazing to be given the opportunity to read the writings and sermons of men who have changed the face of the church since the time of Christ. One of my favorite figures is Martin Luther. Whenever I pick up one of his sermons and read it, I can't believe that it was written about 400 years ago. The thoughts are so relevant today. I will let his words from a sermon he spoke on a Christmas day so many years ago speak for themselves today.

"Therefore see to it that you do not find pleasure in the Gospel only as a history, for that is only transcient; neither regard it only as an example, for it is of no value without faith; but see to it that you make this birth your own and that Christ be born in you...This is our foundation and inheritance, upon which good works must be built. If Christ has now thus become your own, and you have by such faith been cleansed through him and have received your inheritance without any personal merit, but alone through the love of God who gives to you as your own the treasure and work of his Son; it follows that you will do good works by doing to your neighbor as Christ has done to you. Here good works are their own teacher. What are the good works of Christ? Is it not true that they are good because they have been done for your benefit, for God's sake, who commanded him to do the works in your behalf? In this then Christ was obedient to the Father, in that he loved and served us.

Therefore since you have received enough and become rich, you have no other commandment to serve Christ and render obedience to him, than so to direct your works that they may be of benefit to your neighbor, just as the works of Christ are of benefit and use to you. For the reason Jesus said at the Last Supper: 'This is my commandment that you love one another; even as I have loved you.' (John 13:34...Observe now from this how far those have gone out of the way who have united good works with stone, wood, clothin, eating, and drinking. Of what benefit is it to your neighbor if you build a church entirely out of gold? of what benefit to him is the frequent ringing of great church bells? Of what benefit to him is the glitter and the ceremonies in the churches, the priests' gowns, the sanctuary, the silver pictures and vessels? Of what benefit to him are the many candles and much incense. Of what benefit to him is the much chanting and mumbling, the singing of bigils and masses? Do you think that God will permit himself to be paid with the sound of bells, the smoke of candles, the glitter of gold and such fancies? He has commanded none of these, but your see your neighbor going astray, sinning, or sufferng in body or soul, you are to leave every thing else and at once help him in every way in your power and if you can do no more, help him wiht words of comfort and prayer. Thus has Christ done to you and given you an example for you to follow.

These are the two things in which a Christian is to exercise himself, the one that he draws Christ into himself, and that by faith he makes him his own, appropriates to himself the treasures of Christ and confidently builds upon them; the other that he condescends to his neghbor and lets him share in that which he has received, even as he shares in the treasures of Christ. He who does not exercies himself in these two things will receive no benefit even if he should fast unto death, suffer torture or even give his body to be burned, and were able to do all miracles, as St. Paul teaches, 1 Cor. 13ff."

Watch out for potholes