“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Evangelitis Warning!

I have noticed a disease reaching epidemic proportions within the church. It seems to be quite insidious and can develop, at times, almost undetected. So, I wanted to send out a CDC (Church Disease Control) warning.

The disease is Evangelitis, and it can be fatal if not treated. Here are some of the symptoms:

1. Your church may rapidly swell 2, 3, up to 5 times it's normal size, yet it's functionality may be reduced by ten times. Even though it would seem that a larger church would INCREASE the proper functioning of the body, in fact, when this disease begins to take root, the exact opposite is observed; the older people are shuffled into 'vintage' services and the younger ones enjoy the 'contemporary' services. Slowly but surely, the more traditional folks will begin to feel alienated and isolated. They will eventually begin to fall off.

2. Your pastor regularly preaches in attire that is more suitable for an all-night lock-in at a cream pie factory with 100 crazed youth. (you know, torn jeans, a snorgtee, and sandals, or maybe barefoot).

3. Your pastor has a blog that he updates with frantic, almost obssessive regularity. But the posts have almost no spiritual bearing, most of them being self-absorbed rants. Oh, and he will use the word 'freaking' a lot, and it often times is all in caps. (My guess is that this proves how cool and relevant he really is?)

4. The sermons at your church can readily be found at a number of sermon prep sites for a small fee, and were generally not authored by your pastor. (I assume he is far too busy updating his blog?)

5. The leadership at your church are far more concerned with being 'relevant' as opposed to 'Biblical'.

6. Your time of singing consists of a worship 'band' that 'performs', (loudly), while everyone stands around clapping. And the band has enough gear (lights, sounds, instrumentation) to float the next Police reunion tour.

7. Your leadership seems to be enamored with technology as opposed to Theology.

8. Your church sponsors conferences that are named 'Revolution', 'Awakening', 'Fire' and the guest speakers are pop psychologists, eastern meditation experts and prayer maze designers.

9. Your pastor has replaced the pulpit with a card table and chairs, a bed, a music stand, or a couch.

10. Not only has the pastor replaced the pulpit with a stage prop, but he has also replaced the Bible with a book from the McManus/McLaren/Bell/Eldridge groups.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should immediately begin checking the church regularly for a loss in the proclamation of the Evangel. At times, the loss of a functioning Evangel is almost imperceptible, so be on your guard.

You have been warned!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Soli Deo Gloria Part 2 - Conclusion

In my last post, I ended by saying that we should never forget the men and women who lived and died to the glory of God.

I would like to tell you of one – Captain Allen Francis Gardiner.

Capt. Gardiner was a very devout Christian man, and naval officer in the British Navy in the 19th century. Captain Gardiner left England to do missions work amongst the Patagonian peoples in September 1850; it took about four months for the small band to arrive in Patagonia, which is on the southernmost tip of South America. Immediately they had problems, losing several of their small vessels and most of their provision of gunpowder, which was their only way to procure food for themselves.

The mission work was difficult as well, for the natives were hostile to much of the work that Gardiner and his band were attempting. To make a long story short – eventually the British Admiralty sent a ship to check on the seven. They had all died of illness and starvation. But, I want to share with you what the Navy found when they came upon the camp in which Gardiner had finally perished.

Here is an entry from Gardiner’s diary dated September 3rd, 1851 -- "Mr Maidment was so exhausted yesterday that he did not rise from his bed till noon, and I have not seen him since; consequently I tasted nothing yesterday. I cannot leave the place where I am, and know not whether he is in the body, or enjoying the presence of the gracious God whom he has served so faithfully. I am writing this at ten o'clock in the forenoon. Blessed be my heavenly Father for the many mercies I enjoy--a comfortable bed, no pain, or even cravings of hunger; though excessively weak, scarcely able to turn in my bed, at least, it is a very great exertion; but I am, by His abounding grace, kept in perfect peace, refreshed with a sense of my Saviour's love, and an assurance that all is wisely and mercifully appointed, and pray that I may receive the full blessing which it is doubtless designed to bestow. My care is all cast upon God, and I am only waiting His time and His good pleasure to dispose of me as He shall see fit. Whether I live or die, may it be in Him; I commend my body and my soul to His care and keeping, and earnestly pray that He will take my dear wife and children under the shadow of His wings, comfort, guard, strengthen, and sanctify them wholly, that we may together, in a brighter and eternal world, praise and adore His goodness and grace in redeeming us with His precious blood, and plucking us as brands from the burning, to bestow upon us the adoption of children, and make us inheritors of His heavenly kingdom. Amen.

A day or two before his death, Gardiner made a final entry into his diary -- "Should anything prevent my ever adding to this, let all my beloved ones at home rest assured that I was happy beyond all expression the night I wrote these lines, and would not have changed situations with any man living. Let them also be assured that my hopes were full and blooming with immortality; that heaven and love and Christ, which mean one and the same divine thing, were in my heart; that the hope of glory, the hope laid up for me in heaven, filled my whole heart with joy and gladness, and that to me to live is Christ, to die is gain. I am in a strait betwixt two, to abide in the body, or to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Let them know that I loved them, and prayed for every one of them. .God bless them all.”

Capt. Gardiner lived AND died to the glory of God. You hear no whimpering or self-pity in this man, only a laser-focused perspective on the providential will of God, and serving that God to His [God's] glory. I wish I were that dedicated to God's glory. Sadly, I fear, I am far too self-absorbed much of the time. May we all pray that God transform us all into a people consumed with His glory!

How do we live in a manner that reflects Soli Deo Gloria? To glorify God, you must first acknowledge Him! That is the first aspect of soli deo gloria. All too often, our only thoughts of God take place at church for 60 minutes on a Sunday morning, and even then, He is competing with thoughts of football, social activities, or any number of other things. God must occupy our thoughts at all times – as Reverend Geoff Thomas of Alfred Place Church says – “The idea of God must be the greatest idea you ever had. It must swallow up and dominate all other ideas.”

Then, when we have acknowledged God, we must recognize that He is the giver of all things; everything that we have, is given to us from God – our talent, our looks, our abilities, these all come from God. When we recognize that fact we are much better at glorifying Him in all that we do. Phil Keaggy may be a great guitarist, but it is God who gave Phil that talent – yes, he worked at it by practicing, but I could practice as long and hard as him, and I would never be the guitarist that he is. God gifts us with our abilities – why is it that you have the intelligence that you have? Is there something you did to CREATE it? You may have studied and nurtured the ability, but God is the first cause!

Finally, we must grasp that God is not only the first cause, but the end of all things. All things begin and end in God – when we recognize this fact, we are able to put everything else in perspective. At the end of the day – God is all in all, when this election year, this century, this country, this earth is but a memory, there will still be God. Knowing that enables us to put everything else in its place. How could Captain Gardiner write in such a manner only days before his death? He was not bemoaning the futility of his life and death, no he was living coram deo – before the face of God, fully cognizant that God is glorious!

We so often are like Martha – anxious and troubled about many things – so busy with the ‘doing’ of life that we forget the ‘why’ of life – we are to live to the glory of God in such a way that the world will notice! Again, let us remember Paul’s command in 1st Corinthians 10:31 -- So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Let me close this post with the words to the Hymn, Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise [Walter Chalmers Smith, 1867]:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
thy justice like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all, life thou givest, to both great and small;
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish, but naught changeth thee.

Thou reignest in glory; thou dwellest in light;
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all laud we would render: O help us to see
'tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Soli Deo Gloria Part 1 - Introduction

This series of posts will be my final ones on the solas. This post will look at 'soli deo gloria', or ‘for the glory of God alone’. So far I have posted about:

1. - sola fide – ‘by faith alone’
2. - sola gratia – ‘by grace alone’
3. - solus Christus – 'by Christ alone'
4. - sola scriptura - 'scripture alone'

The reason for these posts is that, sadly, we again find these solas under attack in the modern so-called evangelical church! We regularly find well-known preachers denying these solas – preaching a semi-pelagian message that resonates so well with man in his fallen nature. These 'preachers' will state or intimate that Adam's sin is not imputed to us, nor is Christ's righteousness. Adam is merely a bad example, not the representative in whom we stand guilty. Similarly, Christ is simply a good example, not the representative in whom we stand righteous.

How much of modern preaching focuses on the moralistic message of 'WWJD' as opposed to the God-glorifying message of 'What Did Jesus DO!?' The primary message coming out of many churches today is this human-centered, works-based one. Fallen man LOVES the law – it makes us feel that we can affect our own salvation at some level – therefore, we pump up the most legalistic of the televangelists and pour money into their coffers, as they tell us that we MUST do this and that to be accepted by God! It is amazing that people will follow a leader who is constantly preaching all law and no gospel, yet we see it everyday!

We must always keep before us that our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Without keeping this perspective, which is the perspective of the Bible, then God’s Word becomes all Law – what to do and what not to do – and we therefore must make ourselves ‘right’ by following all the rules. What the solas do is remove all reason for boasting; all thought that somehow we affected any part of our own salvation.

Therefore, this is not a popular message amongst many modern 'evangelicals'; man wants to feel like he/she has a part in their salvation, and if we can get someone to provide us with a measuring rod to allow us to compare and contrast ourselves with God’s Word, and others, then we will feel better about the whole thing.

As Paul said to a prideful, puffed up Corinthian church – 1st Corinthians 4:7 -- For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

There is arrogance in today’s church that is very off-putting, and affects outreach efforts, growth of disciples, and maturity within the body – and that arrogance is directly an outgrowth of failing to remember that we are saved by God’s grace alone, through a faith imparted by Him alone, in Christ, His perfect provision alone, to His glory alone!


The very first question in the Westminster shorter catechism is:

Q1. What is the chief end of man?

A1. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

The reformers taught the sovereignty of God over ALL aspects of the believer's life. ALL of our life is to be lived to the glory of God.

In the Medieval Church, glory assigned to many things – from icons and saints, to Mary, to the Pope. Each of these and more, had glory inappropriately assigned to them. This was what the Reformers attacked in their statement of Soli Deo Gloria – that there is no one and nothing on Earth that is deserving of the glory that is meant for God alone. The elevation of the church offices by Rome led to the mindset that only people in full-time ministry could truly glorify God, and everyone else was beholden to them! And here is where the Reformers tore down the idolatry that had grown up around the church officers – be it the local parish priest or the pope himself.

We still have people who attempt to wrest glory from God. Do not be fooled by their pious sounding nonsense; watch their actions, and see who they give glory to. These are the modern popes, who want the glory that is God's alone!

In 1st Corinthians 10:31, Pauls says - So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Paul says that in ALL things we are to do it to the glory of God – there is no ‘special’ vocation that brings glory to God, rather it is the entirety of our lives that are to bring glory to God!

This sola is a most difficult one for us – isn’t it? For, as much as we want to deny it, we love glory – we relish someone idolizing us, assigning glory to us. As a pastor I can tell you that there is something incredibly dangerous about being put on a pedestal – it can cause the best of men to believe their own press clippings; soon they are the one to whom the adoration and glory, which belong to God alone, is funneled. And it is not just the pastor, but each and every one of us who is susceptible to wanting glory.

Not only do we love glory, but, as Calvin said in his institutes, our hearts are idol factories. Not only do we attempt to usurp the glory that belongs to God, but we focus our affections on other things BEFORE God!

This was clearly illustrated this election year, when many put more faith in their candidate than in Christ, in their party than in God – we showered glory and respect on mere men, and in doing so, we often dishonored God in our actions, words, or thoughts! We are called to live our lives in such a manner that we glorify our God and Father – the one whose plan of salvation made it possible for us to become His children!

Here are a few questions

1. - Is the purpose of the evangelical community to honor God, or please men?

2. - Is our joy found in God, or someone, or something else?

Here is a quick test of priorities: do you know the starting line-up of your favorite sports team, but do not know anything about God’s Word? Do you spend hours watching TV, but cannot find a minute to pray with your kids? Are you more interested in being entertained by upbeat and “I” centered worship songs than you are in worshiping God in Spirit and Truth? Are you living so that God is glorified in your life, or are you living your best, and self-centered, life now?

I fear that the church has forgotten, or worse, discarded, this sola! We have become overwhelmed and infatuated by the world and its ways – we can simply witness the recent financial storm that hit Wall Street – I have spent more time talking about this with Christians than we have discussed God and His glory; it would seem that when it comes to our own convenience, comfort or safety, we place God in the queue and get to Him when time permits.

However, if we but look at a few examples found in Scripture, I believe that we will discover that to truly live a life of soli deo Gloria, our comfort and safety is not taken into consideration. What of Stephen in Acts 6, 7? Stephen preached the gospel, giving glory to God for what He had done, and this led to his stoning. Yet, even at this juncture he did not waiver – as they stoned him, he looked up and saw Jesus waiting to receive him into heaven. Stephen’s very death brought glory to God!

And then of course, there is Paul – 2nd Corinthians 11:24 – 31 -- Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.

This Paul would also say – Philippians 4:12 - 20 -- I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Let us not forget about the men and women who lived, and died to the glory of God in the past two millennia of Christian work. In my next post, I will finish off the solas by posting about one of these men. For now, may we all refocus our lives and live to the Glory of God alone!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sola Scriptura Part 2 - Conclusion

While Luther and most of the other Reformers did not advocate throwing the baby out with the bathwater as regards the tradition and teaching of the Church, there was a movement within the Reformation that actually swung completely the other way, and was in complete error!

This was the radical Anabaptist group – they believed that they did not need the teaching office of the church, or even the Bible; since the Holy Spirit spoke to them -- or at least to their leaders -- directly. Instead of one Pope, Anabaptism produced numerous "infallible" messengers who heard the voice of God. Their modern day ancestors are found in the fringes of the charismatic movement and beyond – people who believe that they can have an extra-biblical revelation, and even when it does not square with the bible, or worse, even directly contradicts it, they are validated in holding to that claim because it was ‘revealed’ to them by the spirit. Of course, no one is quite sure which spirit it is, because the Holy Spirit of God would never contradict His Word.

Over and against the errors of both Rome and the Anabaptists, the Reformation insisted that the Bible was the sole final authority in determining doctrine and life. In interpreting it, the whole church must be included, including the laity, and they must be guided by the teachers in the church. Those teachers, though not infallible, should have considerable interpretive authority. The creeds were binding and the newly reformed Protestant communions quickly drafted confessions of faith that received the assent of the whole church, not merely the teachers.

You see, the concept that the church has no authority vested in leadership is not Biblical – yet there are groups who do not believe that there should be teachers or preachers in the church, that each and every person considers and studies the Bible on their own and comes up with their own unique interpretation. This is why you have such an illiterate and self-focused church today, there is no methodical and learned study of God’s Word from the pulpit and in the weekly lessons, there are lots of feel-good therapeutic messages which use bits and pieces of God’s Word to prove their validity, but the individual believer is left to figure it out on their own – and in our egalitarian society, whatever they come up with is held to be true FOR THEM! Truly Luther was right – each and every man is going to hell in his own way.

Yet, this is not what we see in the Biblical record – The first thing Paul did was to appointed elders to the church – and they were not just any man off the street – 1st Timothy 3:1 – 7 -- The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

We see in 1st Timothy 1:3, 4 that Paul charges Timothy to “remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” Going on in 1st Timothy 4:6 – 16 to say: "If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

While the modern church says that doctrine divides and we should be more interested in social activity or some such nonsense, Paul was obsessed with correct doctrine, and men charged to preach and teach it!

Peter illustrates the import of the Scriptures in 2nd Peter 1:16 – 21 -- "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter states that he and the other disciples bear the testimony of being eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, specifically during the Transfiguration, but he then goes on to say that there is even a more sure testimony – that of the Scriptures!

While certain men may be gifted and guided to be teachers and preachers in the church – they will never trump Scripture. As long as they are faithful witnesses to the Word of God, they are valid teachers; when they stray, like Hymaneus and Alexander, they make a shipwreck of their faith!

So let me leave you with a couple of thoughts –

First, the Bible never makes the claim that we are to toss out everything save for the Word of God – but that everything is to be validated by, and verified by the Scriptures. We are to have churches, with leaders who are given the honor due their position, and these men should be held up to a different, higher standard in their knowledge and conduct. These men should give themselves to the study, preaching and teaching of God’s Word, being first and foremost shaped by it themselves.

Secondly, like the Bereans, the laity, the congregation are to also be students of the Word of God. It is said that in the day of Jonathan Edwards, during the formative days of this country, every plow in his district had a Greek New Testament balanced on it – so eager were the people to know the Word of God. Would that we were that hungry for God’s Word!

And finally, that we are to study what the great men of God have learned throughout the ages as they gave their lives to the study of, and meditation upon God’s Word. These men must never be elevated above the Scriptures; Calvin, Luther, Augustine, all had their flaws, but there are many jewels of insight they gave to the church – we must not throw away these treasures.

Let us treasure and love the Word of God!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Sola Scriptura Part 1 - Scripture Alone?

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:97 - 105

As we begin today’s message, let me start by telling you what sola scriptura DOES NOT mean.

There are those who believe that sola scriptura means we throw out all tradition, all learned teaching, and all history. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, what Luther and the reformers meant by sola scriptura! There were those movements in that day, the more radical elements of the Anabaptist movement, who took that direction, but Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon and the others understood that there was truth and learning contained within the tradition of the church; there was good tradition, and we were to study the Early Church Fathers, such as Augustine (Luther was an Augustinian monk at one time.)

When he was questioned about the idea of throwing out the creeds, the traditions and all the history contained therein – Luther responded thusly: "That would mean that each man would go to hell in his own way."

Sola scriptura NEVER meant that we were to do away with everything learned up to the 16th century. Most cults start just this way – a bunch of people get together and claim that their only creed is the Bible – of course, they have no learning, and they throw out all of the learning that can be gained from men who gave their entire lives to the study of Theology, tossing the entire history of a church that has carried the saints through millennia of persecution, deprivation and hatred. All one has to do is search the web; every goofy idea that was refuted centuries ago has resurfaces, from total mythology to some of the more bizarre movements within the so-called 'Messianic Movement'.

As well, we see this mindset in many a church today; it is just me, the Bible and the Holy Spirit – no parameters, no authority, no guidelines.

And what does the church end up with? People who claim that the Godhead is NOT a trinity, but instead nine persons, or that Adam flew to distant planets like an ancient Superman – or people who claim that the ‘spirit’ revealed to them that we should all stop going to church. All of these are the result of the mindset that there should not be any authority vested within the church, but that every person should be free to do what they want; truly Luther’s fear: that every man will go to hell in his own way, is being expressed in many circles today where authority and the beliefs of the church from its founding have been trumped by a slick talker with a Bible and a personal revelation from a spirit!

As a matter of fact, this mindset is the exact thing that the Catholic Church warned about – with a complete breakdown of authority you will have anarchy – and we see it in today’s church!

So, if that is NOT what the Reformers meant by sola scriptura, what then, did they mean? It helps to understand the times, and what Luther was attempting to reform: In that day, (and even now), Rome believes that not only did the church need an infallible Bible, but they also needed an infallible interpreter. The Bible is so difficult, so dark, that the common man in and of himself was unable to understand the it, and therefore, the church needed an interpreter who was also vested with infallibility to make clear the Bible. And this interpreter (The Roman church), because of their infallibility, could make pronouncements that were as binding as Scripture upon the church.

As a side note, this continues to this day – many Catholics do not obey the church as they once did, but the official position of Rome is still that it is infallible when ruling upon the faith and practice of the church.

So, when the reformers claimed sola scriptura, they were NOT saying that they denied all authority vested within the church, but that authority was based upon the foundation of the Scriptures – in other words, the church could not ‘reinterpret’ the Scriptures to say something that they never said, but instead their authority was based upon the correct reading of, and adherence to the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the final rule for faith and practice of the believer.

When Johann Tetzel brought his cart around to demand payment for indulgences, Luther felt no compulsion about calling him on it. Although indulgences were authorized and endorsed by the church, there was no precedence within Scripture for this practice, and therefore Luther felt that it should be scrapped. He recognized it as nothing more than a money making venture for Rome. Likewise, the thought that an ecumenical council could be infallible was extra-biblical – so the rulings of the councils that did not square with the Bible were considered spurious by Luther.

When Luther stood trial at the Diet of Worms in 1521 – he was asked if he would recant his writings, the very writings which opposed the councils and rulings of the church that were not found within the confines of Scripture.

As he stood in defense of his writings, Luther was standing on the shoulders of great men before him, such as Wycliffe, the Morning Star of the Reformation, who rebelled against Rome in the 14th century, and Jan Hus, a 15th century Bohemian reformer.

At this point, the Reformation stood in the balance; would Luther recant?

He asked for a day to consider.

After a day in prayer and meditation on the Word of God, Luther returned and gave his famous statement – “Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.”

This was a shot heard around the world! Luther was saying that unless one could convince him from the Scriptures of the error of his ways, no council, no man should budge him. This was a death sentence, and Luther knew it!

This was before papal infallibility; that would not develop for another 370 or so years, but the church did believe that the councils were infallible, and Luther's statement sent a shockwave through Christendom. He was stating that the church does have a certain biblical authority, but unless that authority is based upon the Scriptures, it has no binding rule over the believer. Therefore, the church must practice Biblical discipline, but not extra-biblical discipline, the church must practice the ordinances, but not add to them, the church is authorized to place leaders over people, but when those leaders violate the trust of the people and go against Scripture, they are to be removed. The church is UNDER the authority of the Scriptures not OVER or EQUAL to them!

I will leave you with that thought, and put up a second post later in the week to finish off sola scriptura.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Solus Christus Part 3 - The Work of Christ

And finally we come to the work of Christ; what is that work? First, it is not just His death on the cross – if Jesus ONLY died on the cross for our sins, (although this is far beyond simple minds to even consider by itself), then we would have been set back to the original state of Adam, left to our own devices, but cleared of past sins. This is the view of some – they believe that Jesus made the BIG payment on the cross, but we are responsible for the remaining payments, by adhering to the Law! And people preach this! As I said earlier, I am not exempt from having done this – and for that I am sorry! The truth is much more incredible, we did not just have Jesus reset the counters to zero and hand us the reins, wishing us all the best. He imputed to us His sinless, perfect life. So, when the Judge of the Universe looks upon the redeemed, He sees them clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ!

Romans 3:21 – 26 -- But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Philippians 3: 8 – 11 -- Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Jesus’ death on the cross was He who knew no sin, being made sin for us. It is amazing that for the joy set before Him He endured the cross isn’t it? His love of the Father, and desire to do His will was set before all other things, and He became obedient, even unto death on a cross! On the cross Jesus became the propitiation – the one who bore the wrath of the Father, and the one who expiated our sin – taking them away.

It is in His work on the cross that we find Jesus taking on the sins of His people. Isaiah 53:4 – 6 -- Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Hebrews 10:10 – 14 -- … we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

My friends, there is no salvation found outside of the Person of Jesus Christ! Only in His finished work in the cross can we find redemption – all roads do not lead to heaven! Jesus Himself said – John 14:6 -- … I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Whether you have been a Christian for 40 years or 40 minutes, He calls to you to find your rest in Him. Jesus, in His final words on the cross, said “tetelestai” – paid in full. Find your rest in Him, and His finished work – for you, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, are in the hand of the Father and no one can snatch you from there. Even when you are faithless, He is faithful!

Solus Christus!

When we understand that Christ paid it all, we can say, with the poet Fredrick Whitfield:

There is a Name I love to hear,
I love to sing its worth;
It sounds like music in my ear,
The sweetest Name on earth.

Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

It tells me of a Savior’s love,
Who died to set me free;
It tells me of His precious blood,
The sinner’s perfect plea.

It tells me of a Father’s smile
Beaming upon His child;
It cheers me through this little while,
Through desert, waste, and wild.

It tells me what my Father hath
In store for every day,
And though I tread a darksome path,
Yields sunshine all the way.

It tells of One whose loving heart
Can feel my deepest woe;
Who in each sorrow bears a part
That none can bear below.

It bids my trembling heart rejoice;
It dries each rising tear;
It tells me, in a “still small voice,”
To trust and never fear.

Jesus, the Name I love so well,
The Name I love to hear:
No saint on earth its worth can tell,
No heart conceive how dear.

This Name shall shed its fragrance still
Along this thorny road,
Shall sweetly smooth the rugged hill
That leads me up to God.

And there with all the blood-bought throng,
From sin and sorrow free,
I’ll sing the new eternal song
Of Jesus’ love for me.