Faithlife Sermons

Salvation by Grace, not Works

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There are a number of gripping scenes in the movie Saving Private Ryan that stay with you a long time after seeing it. One of those scenes comes near the end of the movie. Captain John Miller and his squad were on a mission to save Private James Francis Ryan. They were to bring him back home safely because his three brothers had been killed in action within one week.

When the rescue squad finally located Private Ryan, he refused to desert his comrades. Ryan's small, shot-up squad had been given a mission to defend a strategic bridge in Normandy. Captain Miller and his squad reluctantly joined with the other soldiers and Private Ryan to defend the bridge against Germans.

Captain Miller was mortally wounded in the effort to save the bridge. As he sat on the bridge firing his .45 handgun uselessly at an oncoming tank, reinforcements finally arrived. An airplane blew up the tank that Captain Miller had been firing at. The German soldiers fled and for the moment the battle was over. Private Ryan rushed to Captain Miller's side to check on his condition. The captain looked at Ryan, the man he and his squad had come to save—the man they had saved.

"Earn this," Miller said softly.

"Sir?" Ryan asked.

Now the captain repeated it firmly, an order: "Earn this." His last words.

The next and last scene of the movie shows the 74-year-old James Ryan, from Peyton, Iowa, threading his way through the perfectly lined white crosses of St. Laurent Military Cemetery in France. He has returned with his wife, children, and grandchildren on a vacation. Ryan searches until he finally finds the white cross that marks the grave of Captain John H. Miller.

Ryan looks at the cross and speaks to it, as if he were speaking to a person. He says, "I've tried. Tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that's enough. I didn't invent anything. I didn't cure any diseases. I worked a farm. I raised a family. I lived a life. I only hope, in your eyes at least, I earned what you did for me."

Our salvation is beyond price. It cost the precious life and blood of our Lord. Yet, should there not be a bit of the attitude expressed by James Ryan in each of us? We cannot earn our salvation or ever really deserve it, but shouldn't we see that we have a responsibility to live our life in a worthy manner so it might honor the one who gave His life for ours?

-Clifford Vick

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