Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: Faith Alone

Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional. Martin Luther. Edited by James C. Galvin. 2005. Zondervan. 400 pages. [Source: Bought]

Looking for a devotional for next year? Now is the time to start looking. One tip I have for anyone looking to buy a new devotional, is to take advantage of kindle samples and look inside features. For this particular book, you have a little over two weeks worth of devotional entries. More than enough to help you decide if it is likely to be right for you!

Faith Alone is the devotional I picked out for myself last year. Did I like it? Did I love it? YES! Very, very much!

About the book:
These selections, originally written by Martin Luther between 1513 and 1546, have all been freshly translated into English for this devotional. The goal was to make this edition both accurate and easy to understand. I selected the readings primarily from Luther’s sermons, commentaries, and other devotional writings. These selections cover topics both theological and practical. Some of the theological themes you’ll find include the centrality of Christ, justification by faith alone, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of putting faith in God above human reason. Practical themes include the struggle against sin and temptation, prayer, humility, the handling of wealth and possessions, the value of everyday work, the importance of marriage and family, and love for neighbor. You may read one selection a day according to the date or explore themes using the subject index located in the back of the book. The verse at the beginning of each reading is usually the one that Luther was writing about or preaching on. At times I’ve attached a different verse that better fits the theme of the devotional thought. 
I read Faith Alone like I read most devotional books. Instead of reading one entry per day, I often read multiple entries several times a month. If I read it twice a month, I'd read about fifteen entries each time. If three or four times a month, about seven to ten entries at a time. I don't say that this is the absolute best way to read a devotional. But it seems to be a practical solution for me personally.

I thought I would share *one* quote from each month of the year in this review.

I understand what Jesus is saying here [John 14:6] in the simplest manner, so that it all applies to this one person, Christ. Jesus is called “the way” because he is the beginning, “the truth” because he is the one who helps us continue, and also “the life” because he is the end. For he must be everything—the beginning, the middle, and the end of our salvation. That is why we place him as the foundation stone on which the other stones are set and on which the entire roof is built. He is the first, middle, and last rung on the ladder to heaven (Genesis 28:12). For through him we must begin, continue, and finally reach the life beyond. So there is only one Christ, but he assumes different roles in our salvation experience. In the beginning it’s hard to find the way. Then life becomes more difficult as we continue to walk along the way. It becomes extremely tough when we have traveled on the way for a long time and are about to reach our final shelter—heaven. So if you hold on to Christ in faith, then you have started in the right place. If you remain with him, then you will be walking on the right path. If you persevere until the end, then you will be saved. Christ wants to pry our hearts away from trusting anything else. There is no other way, highway, bridge, or path for us than Christ alone. ~ January 19
When I feel anxious about sin and hell, I remind myself that when I have Christ, I have all that is necessary. Neither death, sin, nor the devil can hurt me. If I believe in Christ, I have fulfilled the law; it cannot accuse me. I have conquered hell; it cannot hold me. Everything that Christ has is mine. Through him, we obtain all his possessions and eternal life. Even if I am weak in faith, I still have the same treasure and the same Christ that others have. There’s no difference: we are all made perfect through faith in him, not by what we do. ~ February 4
We must do what God wants and stop thinking and worrying about what God hasn’t told us to do. Nothing is safer for us or more pleasing to God than when we trust in God’s Word instead of our own ideas. In his Word, we will find enough guidance about what we are to do. God requires us to have faith, to love, and to endure suffering. These three should be enough to keep us delightfully busy. We should deal with everything else as it comes along and let God worry about how it all turns out. ~ March 12
In summary, we must crucify the sinful nature for as long as we live on the earth. This means we are aware of its desires, but we don’t obey these desires. With the armor of God and with the spiritual weapons of faith, hope, and the sword of the Spirit, we fight against the sinful nature. With these nails, we fasten it to the cross so it is forced against its will to be subject to the Spirit. When we die, we put off the sinful nature completely. When we are resurrected, we will have a pure nature with no sinful passions or cravings. ~ April 9
You shouldn’t dare to reinterpret the Word of God your own way. It’s better to think, “I don’t understand these words. But before I change them, take something away from them, or add to them, I would rather leave them alone. I’ll give them to God.” The Scriptures should always be handled with reverence and respect. ~ May 22
We pray in response to God’s command and promise. We offer our prayers to God in the name of Christ, and we know that what we ask for will be given to us. We experience God’s help in all kinds of needy situations. And if relief doesn’t come soon, we still know that our prayers are pleasing to God. We know that God has answered us because he gives us the strength to endure. ~ June 11
The devil knows what prayer can accomplish. That’s why he creates so many obstacles and makes it so inconvenient for us that we never get around to prayer. ~ July 16
All the stories in Holy Scripture, if they are interpreted correctly, point toward Christ. ~ August 12
I have learned from my own experience that praying is often the most difficult thing to do. I don’t hold myself up as a master of prayer. In fact, I admit that I have often said these words coldly: “God, have mercy on me.” I prayed that way because I was worried about my own unworthiness. Yet ultimately the Holy Spirit convinced me, “No matter how you feel, you must pray!” God wants us to pray, and he wants to hear our prayers—not because we are worthy, but because he is merciful. ~ September 2
But those who have any kind of love and desire for the Word should gratefully acknowledge that these attitudes are poured into them by the Holy Spirit. For we are not born with these attitudes and cannot acquire them through the law. This transformation rests completely and absolutely in the hand of the Almighty. So when we eagerly listen to preaching about Jesus Christ, the Son of God—who for our sakes became a human being and subjected himself to the law to save us—then God sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts through this preaching. Therefore, it’s very useful for us to remember that we have the Holy Spirit. ~ October 13
We should learn to remind ourselves of Christ’s victory. In Christ, we already have everything that we need. We live only to spread this message of victory to other people. With our words and example, we tell them about the victory that Christ secured for us and gave to us. Christ, our victor, accomplished everything. We don’t need to add anything to it. We don’t need to wipe away our own sins or try to conquer death and the devil. Everything has already been done for us. We’re not fighting the real battle. We’re only suffering now in order to share in Christ’s victory. Christ says, “I have already won. Accept my victory. Sing about it and glorify it. Take comfort in it.” We know from the past that when believers were severely tested, the Holy Spirit reminded them of Christ’s victory and strengthened them so that they could endure everything. They could even face martyrdom, relying on Christ’s victory. May God help us also to hold on to Christ’s victory during our troubles and when we’re dying. ~ November 14
So the gospel is a joyful message about Christ our Savior. Whoever preaches correctly preaches the gospel and nothing but joy. How can our hearts have a greater joy than knowing that Christ has been given to us to be our own? So the nature of the gospel is revealed, not just by teaching the story and life of Christ, but also by personalizing it and offering it to all who believe. What would it help me if Christ were born a thousand times, and the news of his birth was sung to me every day with wonderful music, if I didn’t understand that his death was for me and that I should make it my own? ~ December 23

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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