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St. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote to the church in Rome writing, "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." (Romans 3:28). To understand how we are justified, or declared righteous before our Heavenly Father, is necessary for everything. If we don't understand how we are justified to be citizens of heaven and stand before the judgment seat of God and be declared innocent according to Christ's mercy and grace, then everything else will be misunderstood and falsely confessed by us. If we believe that we make ourselves presentable, then we trust not in the death of Jesus, but rather in our own sacrifices and accomplishments to gain a reward from the Father. If we believe that it is by our good works that we are justified, then we will always be in competition with our neighbor, trying to one up them to impress God. If we believe that we are justified, righteous, and forgiven by something we do, then we trust in ourselves, fear our own failures the most, and love our vain good works more than anything.
Let us trust not in our own works, but rather despair of any holiness that we falsely believe we produce. Instead, let us look to Jesus who is our justifier. He is the One that came and claimed all our sin. He lived the only perfect life in obedient joy to the Law, so that, when the Law found Him with our sin, it condemned Him as the sole lawbreaker. Jesus, because He was pure and sinless, was the only one that could make the perfect sacrifice to satisfy His Father's wrath against original sin, our actual sins, and we ourselves as sinner. Jesus did all the work, and it is in this work that we trust and believe for our salvation. We are given the gift of faith to trust in Jesus' mercy as our sole justification, the only thing that merits our existence before our Father in heaven. Jesus forgives us all our sins, and in this we trust and are saved. We trust that Jesus has our best interests at heart and that Jesus takes care of everything needed for our salvation. Faith alone is how we are saved, because it is the gift of faith alone that trusts in the work of Jesus alone and dwells under His grace alone.
Peace be with you. May the devil be silenced, the world be hushed, and the Old Adam be drowned anew so that you hear only the peaceful voice of your Savior Jesus who says, "I forgive you. I love you. I claim you as My own forever," Amen.