Justification: A Ground Level View


This Sunday we’ll consider the doctrine of justification. Our investigation begins in Sunday school, which tells the story of Luther’s Reformation (9:15am) followed by a sermon on Romans 4:1-12. Before addressing the subject from the perspectives of Paul and Luther, however, I would like to share the experience of the great Italian missionary, Andy Brucato, who encountered God’s justifying grace as a directionless hippie in the early 70’s:

This “good news” of salvation by faith, and not by rule keeping, was unknown to me as a Catholic child growing up in the Bronx. Back then my life was fairly simple; school every day, kids’ games in the neighborhood, and hot summers on the New York streets. Although life was not very complicated, I created my own confusion by starting to use drugs as a teenager. There was emptiness in my life that needed to be filled, but I did not know how. I enlisted in the Navy in 1968 and was sent to Vietnam. After the war, I returned to life in New York and to increased drug use. I was without direction and did not even know it.

Then something changed. A friend of mine seemed to disappear from our little band of hippies. He was gone for about six months. When he returned, he said something had taken place in his life. He could not quite explain what had happened, but he gave me a Bible and asked me to start reading it.

I left New York shortly afterwards and headed to Florida. I worked when I wanted to and played the rest of the time. I had no responsibilities and no ties. Inside, however, there was this emptiness that could not be filled with pleasure or drugs of the “free life”. It was during that time that a middle-aged couple living near my home invited me to an Evangelical church to hear what the Bible said about future events. I not only heard about the future according to the Bible, but also about my personal life and future. For the first time in my life I heard how much God loved me and how He had given his son Jesus Christ to die in my place. I heard that He died for my sin, my drug abuse, my selfishness, and rose victoriously from the grave.

The message was not one that described a new religion or a new set of rules, but a relationship with the living God who loved me and died for my sin and shame. This was the message I had longed for without even knowing it. The emptiness and void in my life was filled by the person of Christ himself. I accepted Him as my Savior. It was the great exchange. I gave Him my sin, and He gave me eternal life and forgiveness.

I was keenly aware of the need of others to hear the Good News of salvation through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. I wanted to share that news with all who would listen. My family and friends needed to hear that eternal life was a gift to be received, not a reward to be earned by good deeds or religious observances.[1]

[1] From email communication with Rev. Andy Brucato, July 7, 2008.

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