The Christian life is shaped by the giving love of Christ and in the Scripture we have his bidding and descriptions of that shape. We would please him. Yet in nothing of our achievements, in no factor of us, do we place our final reliance. That is in his body and blood given and shed for us, in our Baptism, and in his forgiving and life-giving word of the Gospel which does not merely tell but bestows what it says. This is all from him and as sure as he is sure.
There is nothing anterior to him which makes him sure. At no point may we insert some factor of ourselves as decisive or guaranteeing. Our competence does not rise above the ability to reject him. He suffers himself to be rejected. His saving way is the gracious giving way which is the way of his Spirit with the means of grace. Outside the means of grace his working with his power is irresistible. He makes no one alive as his forgiven child by use of his irresistible power.
From creation and our own faculties we cannot know God as Savior. From these we can at most know him as powerful and just. Only in Christ and his cross do we know the heart of God toward us. The most incredible thing is that God should love us, and love us so much as to go through Calvary for us.
Here is a love beyond the limits of our understanding. We cannot explain it. It derives solely from the heart of God before time and beyond time. From the cross I know God thus loves me. That redeeming love is not only for me or a limited number of men.
– Norman Nagel, “The Gospel Is What Lutherans Care About”