“However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” —Romans 4:5
In the province of Cordoba, Argentina, there are beautiful recreational parks where mazes have been built. One of the largest, in the Valle de Nono, covers an area of 900 square meters and includes 1,600 cypress shrubs. In the center of the maze, there is an elevated tower from which one can see the whole panoramic view.
Once you enter the path of the maze, it is practically impossible to find the exit; you can walk for hours in different directions without success. The sense of being trapped is stressful. Feelings of failure could set in, and you realize making it through on your own is impossible. Eventually, you must give up and look for help from someone who has already traveled the path. This is when the person in the elevated tower begins to guide you: “turn to the left…continue straight…turn to the right.” Although you cannot see the way forward, you trust the words of the guide and obey their instructions. When you finally reach the middle and the stairway of the tower appears before your eyes, you breathe a sigh of relief. Now you are among those who can see others who are fighting in futility to find the way out. Having traveled the path, you now have the opportunity to guide others. Experiences like this help us understand the doctrine of justification by faith.
In his sermon “Justification by Faith,” John Wesley described the state of hopelessness that overcomes us when we live in sin and the awareness of our inability to get away from what has trapped us when we lean on our own strength or intelligence. We futilely forge our own path, trying to justify ourselves before God, family, and others, but we find no peace in our souls. We delude ourselves when we try to erase the bad things we have done by acting better. The good works of a person alienated from God have no weight on the scales of the Creator; they do not free anyone from the punishment of sin.
For this reason, Wesley affirmed that this doctrine “Holds the foundation of our hope, for while we are alienated from God, neither true peace nor true joy are possible in this life or in eternity.”
This is the news that all must hear! God loves us so much that He wants to take us out of the life of hopelessness.
Therefore, He produces faith in us, and that faith is what drives us to look toward “the tower.” Faith enables us to believe in Jesus Christ and to follow His directions with confidence. This life of peace is possible when we put that saving faith into action: “…justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Mónica E. Mastronardi de Fernández, originally from Argentina, has been a global missionary in the Church of the Nazarene since 1995. She currently serves at the Nazarene Seminary of the Americas in San José, Costa Rica (SENDAS). Mónica is the author and editor of several books on discipleship and formation of lay leaders in the Mesoamerican Region.
To read the full text of the sermon, click here.