The End of the System and the Beginning of a Life of Faith

From the very beginning of time humans have felt that they were at a distance with God.  Whether at distance from the Judeo/Christian God of the Bible or at distance with the mythical pagan gods of history; there has been a general consensus that mankind needs to ‘repair’ their relationship with a supreme being.  Paul reflects on the reasons for the distance between mankind and a supreme being in Romans 2:15, “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”  The conscious is stirred when mankind breaks the moral holiness of God which results in ‘guilt’ and thus the feeling of ‘distance.’ 
To remedy this, man creates a ‘system’ in order to appease God or to get God on their side.  This theology has frequently been compared to our contemporary ideology of Santa Clause.  During the month of December children look at Santa Claus and resort to the two following proofs.  1) If I am nice then Santa will bring me good presents of reward.  2) If I am naughty then Santa will punish me by giving me what my deeds deserve… a lump of coal.  It is sad to say, but throughout history Christians and non-Christians alike have subscribed to this Santa Claus ideology as a means to make amends with God.  From the offering of Cain in Genesis 4 to the well developed system that had been thoroughly expounded and upheld by the Pharisees in the New Testament; the bible is full of examples of mankind trying to appease God through Santa Clause ideology… the system. 
This ‘system’ comes to an end when confronted by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  In other words, justification by grace through faith puts an end to the suffocating system as we know it.  This is most profoundly shown to us in Romans 1:17 where Paul says, “…the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”  In commenting on this verse Martin Luther said,
“I questioned this passage for a long time and labored over it, for the expression ‘righteousness of God’ barred my way.  This phrase was customarily explained to mean that the righteousness of God is a virtue by which He is Himself righteous and condemns sinners.  In this way all the teachers of the church except Augustine had interpreted the passage.  They had said: The righteousness of God, that is, the wrath of God.  But as often as I read this passage, I wished that God had never revealed the Gospel; for who could love a God who was angry, who judged and condemned people?  This misunderstanding continued until, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, I finally examined more carefully the word of Habakkuk: ‘The just shall live by his faith.’  From this passage I concluded that life must be derived from faith…  Then the entire Holy Scripture became clear to me, and heaven itself was opened to me.  Now we see this brilliant light very clearly, and we are privileged to enjoy it abundantly.[1]
Essentially what happened for Luther was that the system came to an end!  It died.  Luther’s pursuit of God through the 16th Century System (i.e. indulgences, relics, self-effort, and performance piety) collapsed before him as he came to realize that he could not only appease the demands of the system but that Jesus did it for him as gift.  From the revelation of scripture, Luther came to realize that Jesus stepped into the system and took the punishment we deserved and pleased a God that we could not please.  In other words, by Jesus fulfilling the system, He actually put an end to the system. 
As a result of the tremendous accomplishment of Jesus, known as Justification by Grace, we now are free from the system and live not by a new system but in a totally new way; that being faith.  In and by faith we now look at the bible, our life, the world and eternity through an entirely different lens.  Justification by grace through faith is now the lens in which we look at the whole of scripture and it is also the golden thread of chief teaching that ties the bible together in beautiful unity.  Without justification by grace through faith the system still stands and when the system still stands, there is nothing but spiritual bondage.
The implications of justification by grace through faith are huge.  As the lens of the system is continually destructed (i.e. crucified), every aspect of human life and the life of the church are changed.  In other words, as the ongoing blessings of justification by grace through faith continue, we see freedom from the intense burden of the system.  For example we see the following freedom:  lists to faith; guilt to gratitude; active spirituality to receptive spirituality; self-effort to Jesus’ effort; despair to hope; self to the Spirit; pride to humility; pretending to authenticity; denial to acknowledgment of sin; boundaries to love; independence to dependence; self-esteem to Christ-esteem; earning to gift; what must I do to what has Jesus done; the list could go on and on and on.   
Philipp Melanchthon once said, “We shall be just not when we look to the Law (i.e. System), not when we set out virtues and deeds before God, but when we declare that God is propitious (i.e. Favorable) to us by faith.[2]”  This manmade system comes to closure in Christ and a glorious new life of faith springs forth from and out of Christ.  Justification by Grace is like the narrow neck of an hour glass.  Justification by Grace is the focal point where the system finds its end but is also the focal point that empowers, disperses and begins a new life of faith.
Justification By Grace Through Faith…  The end of the system and the beginning of a life of faith.

[1] The Lutheran Study Bible (Concordia Publishing, 2009), 1909.
[2] Ibid, Parenthetical Comments added.