The Most Difficult Thing

Daily Reform, 1 John 1:8-10

From the Reformer

The heart of man finds it difficult to believe that so great a treasure as the Holy Ghost is gotten by the mere hearing of faith. The hearer likes to reason like this: Forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, the gift of the Holy Ghost, everlasting life are grand things. If you want to obtain these priceless benefits, you must engage in correspondingly great efforts. And the devil says, “Amen.”

We must learn that forgiveness of sins, Christ, and the Holy Ghost, are freely granted unto us at the preaching of faith, in spite of our sinfulness. We are not to waste time thinking how unworthy we are of the blessings of God. We are to know that it pleased God freely to give us His unspeakable gifts. If He offers His gifts free of charge, why not take them? Why worry about our lack of worthiness? Why not accept gifts with joy and thanksgiving?

—Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

He had not been to church in months. Back when he had come to church he heard a message that touched his heart. Yet he never allowed the message to enter his heart. It was only allowed to skirt the soul, tickle the ears, play with his spiritual fancies. He was acting the Christian role but he had never really come to church to worship: to offer the sacrifice of praise and a contrite heart.

One day, he stopped coming to church. He blamed this on the pastor and others in the congregation. Surely, they could have done a better job. The pastor might have preached better sermons and prayed better prayers. Then again, those words would have only touched the man’s heart.

Then the news was out in the community: the man had been found in an adulterous affair. Actually, he had been living this way the entire time he had been visiting the church. No wonder he was enthralled with the message—it offered him forgiveness and peace. He believed the latter was available but the former impossible, for he had done a horrible thing and his wife and children now hated him for it. If she had done the same to him, he would hate her too. Surely God was unwilling to forgive the likes of him.

Accepting forgiveness for one’s sins—and extending it to others—is the most difficult thing for people to do.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers

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