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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Solus Christus Part 2 - The Person of Christ

I closed my last post with the thought that it is who Christ is, and what He has done that saves us. So, let's look at the Person of Christ in this post; WHO He is, and why this is important for our salvation.

What do we mean when we say that it is the person and work of Jesus Christ that saves? What is it about His person that is so special? Well, let me quote Paul in Colossians 1:11 – 20 -- May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And the writer to the Hebrews says this: Hebrews 1:1 – 4 -- Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

And finally in John 1:1 – 5 -- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

What is so special about the person of Jesus Christ? Well, for all who think that the Bible is dull and lifeless – check this out – Isaiah 59:16 -- He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.

Let this sink in; God in the second Person of the Trinity, died on a cross to redeem His people! God the Father, knowing that no fallen human being could accomplish the work of salvation, sent His only begotten Son, the SECOND PERSON of the TRINITY, to die in our stead!

This is why the person of Jesus Christ is so important. I could not die for you – my life does not have infinite worth, nor am I sinless. No matter how ‘nice’ I could ever be, I am unable to save anyone; but Jesus Christ – He, whose life has infinite worth, was the only one capable of sufficiently priopitiating the wrath of an infinite God, who has been infinitely offended! Is any of this boring???

And those who have been redeemed can rest in the comfort of knowing that we cannot be snatched out of God's hands. What a comfort and blessing it is to know that God Himself came to Earth, incarnated as a man, and died on the cross for His people -- thereby ensuring that they would inherit Heaven, and that NOTHING can take that away from them! Boring? I think not!

John 6:35 – 40 -- Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

John 10:27 – 30 -- My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.


Jesus Christ is the only sacrifice that is acceptable to the Father. He whose life has infinite worth, took on the sins of His people to redeem them completely and utterly. He and the Father are one - Jesus Christ is deity, and because of this, those whom He died for, those whom He holds in His hand cannot be snatched out! Because Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity we receive redemption, and can have assurance that we are kept in His infallible, immutable care. Praise the Lord!

I would like to close this post with Romans 8:1 - 4,28 - 39 -- There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit ... And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Solus Christus Part 1 - An Introduction

This post continues our examination of the 5 sola’s of the Reformation.

This post will look at solus Christus, or ‘by Christ alone’. I pray that I will be able to do justice to this most holy of subjects – to proclaim the glorious truth of Jesus Christ is a holy and awesome task that should be the desire and aim of all pastors at all times.

In this post, I hope to spur a desire to look at Christ anew – with fresh eyes; eyes illumined by the Holy Spirit, such that you might once again be drawn to Him afresh – taken in by the beauty of His person and work.

The focus of the church should be on Jesus Christ, however she no longer has Christ and Him crucified as her primary message. We have reduced the Bible to a great moral story, and like Thomas Jefferson did with his Bible, we have effectively removed Jesus’ deity, and atoning work. We now have sermons such as “How to raise positive kids in a negative world”, or “How to eat healthy, like Jesus did”, or, as a local pastor is currently doing, we have sermon series on the joy of SEX! Jesus Christ, and Him crucified is relegated to an Easter service. We have the mistaken notion that once one comes to Christ they no longer need to hear the gospel – they now need moral stories. The truth is that every Christian needs to regularly hear and reflect on the salvation found in our Lord Jesus Christ!

Without Christ as the focus of our message, the Bible becomes all Law – what to do and what not to do, and we become legalistic – I know, I have been there, and regrettably, all too many of my messages have been heavy on Law and light on Gospel. It is not from an ivory tower that I preach this, I have been there, and have several t-shirts!

Without Christ as our focus we cannot understand the message of the Bible; Jesus, in speaking to the Pharisees says this in John 5:39, 40 -- You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The Pharisees knew the Bible, all the do’s and don’ts of the Law, but they did not know Christ. They could preach a mean moralistic message on how to live but without Jesus Christ there was no true understanding of God’s word, and tragically, no salvation! It is not Biblical knowledge in and of itself that saves. It is the Christ revealed in those Scriptures that saves!

Many claim to find the Bible dull and uninspiring (I speak here of Christians), and sadly, it is because they sit under teaching that does not have as its focus Christ and Him crucified! How can one expect the Bible to be interesting, when the pastor has removed the plot line, the main character and even the ending from the book? What book would hold your interest without those key elements?

I have had pastors tell me that their people do not want to hear the Bible taught; they want something relevant. I claim that if they were properly taught the Bible, they would view it as the MOST relevant thing in their life! The Bible is not dull and uninspiring – it is pastors who, in seeking to be relevant, offer up the same promises as the world, just repackaged in ‘Christian’ wrapping, that are dull and uninspired! Take the superficial moralistic and therapeutic messages and throw them out, plug Jesus into His rightful place in the Bible and then teach Christ and Him crucified, and you will discover that the Bible goes from Lawrence Welk in Black & White, to Transformers in full color and THX sound!

In the church today we find many types of 'jesus' presented:

(1) - The ever popular sugar daddy jesus; always a favorite with televangelists – you have heard about him, haven’t you? Just say some magic words, click your heels together and say “there’s no place like home” and He MUST give you your hearts desire.

(2) - Then there is the comforting Doctor-Phil-jesus; he is at our disposal for all our dysfunctional concerns and worries; this Jesus is preached in messages such as the aforementioned Joy of Sex sermon series.

(3) - Then there is the latest, and in my opinion most disgusting jesus: jesus as my boyfriend, reflected in many of the so-called worship songs that are being sung today.

(4) - And finally we have jesus as Ghandi, a great moral teacher who showed us, by example on the cross, how we are to live sacrificially.

Sadly, none of these Jesus’ are the Biblical Jesus. Did Jesus provide us with an example – yes, He did. Did Jesus say to ask in His name for things – yes, He did. BUT, first and foremost, Jesus is the Christ; the ONLY mediator between God and man, whose death on the cross redeemed us from death, hell and the grave! These other facets of His ministry are not the primary focus.

What did Paul say in 1st Corinthians? “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…” Why? Because the most important thing that you can know is Jesus Christ and Him crucified!

The fruit of these faulty presentations are people in pursuit of the gifts in lieu of the giver, healing in place of the healer, and blessings devoid of the blessed. Sadly, many of those who do not get their prayers answered in the 'allotted time-frame' promised by the pastor, or don’t experience a perfect marriage after completing the “Seven Steps to a Successful Marriage”, leave the church never actually hearing the good news of the gospel! These people will say things like “I tried Christianity, and it didn’t work for me”, as if Christ is just another apothecary jar in the medicine chest of life. “Well, that didn’t work, let’s go to the Bah’ai Temple next week…”

Saddest of all, oftentimes these people have never been presented with Christ, and Him crucified; the church may have spoken a lot ABOUT the gospel, but the actual gospel was never presented in all its glory! People do not realize that salvation is found OUTSIDE of themselves; it is nothing that we have done, or will do that saves us – it is the finished work of Christ, and Him ALONE that saves!

Many of the most popular preachers in the land preach a neo-nomian message – no gospel, just an emphasis on the Law and doing ‘our part’. Just because these people have a pleasant demeanor and a blinding smile, makes them no less responsible than the Pharisees in Matthew 23. These people scour the Earth for a proselyte and make them twice the son of hell that they are; the result of Christless Christianity – a message stripped of Christ in His person and work!

We are saved by something OUTSIDE of ourselves! It is who Jesus Christ is, and what He has done that saves.

With the hymn writer we can exclaim:

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus' name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

When Darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
supports me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.

When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Letter to Our President



1st Timothy 2:1,2 -- First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Titus 3:1,2 -- Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.


Mr President,

For the next (at least) four years, the entire world will watch your every move; your every statement will be scrutinized, and studied, and every decision will be lauded or criticized. I cannot imagine the pressure of this job, and I do not believe that any man is sufficient for the performance of it. While I do not agree with some of your staff selections, and we have differing opinions in certain key areas, I will pray for you, as I have your predecessors, every day.

President Obama, I pray that your administration will truly mark a turning point in our country. As I watch you this morning, going through the official routine of inauguration day, I cannot help but be filled with the hope that this country may finally begin to heal from a wound that has long lain open.

President Obama, I oppose your position on abortion and several other areas, and will continue to stand against them, but I will support you as the President of this country, and I pray that God will lead and guide you in your decisions.

With that in mind, I would like to extend this pray:

Our gracious Heavenly Father, we know that You created the heavens and the earth and all that are in them. The earth is Your footstool, and You are seated in the heavenlies. Lord, You appoint leaders, and depose them, and it is by Your providential Will that nations rise and fall. And on this day as we appoint a new leader in this country, I would pray that You would lead and guide His Hand as he directs the country. Lord, we know that President Obama is a man, and like all man, is fallen and fallible, so we pray that Your grace would cover Him, drawing Him evermore back to Your Divine counsel. We pray that his family would, as well, be drawn close to You, and that You would watch over them and protect them. Finally Lord, we know it is only through the finished work of Your Son, Jesus Christ that we may approach Your Throne, so it is in His Name that we pray for this man and this country. Amen.

And, since we just celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday, and today is the historic inauguration of President Barak Obama, I wanted to repost some snippets from Dr. King's "I have a Dream speech. May we hear these words anew on this historic day!

=================================

"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice."

..........

"But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom."

...........

"And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What I Got For Christmas!




And it is WONDERFUL! Every verse of 625 hymns (including seven verses of Amazing Grace)

Now, enough braggadocio -- back to the solas...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sola Gratia Part 3 - The Glory!

In the last post we examined the condition of man, and, in this final post, I want to illustrate the beauty of sola gratia. Think about this; sinners do not seek God; God seeks sinners. What a wonderful reality!

Here are a few closing Scriptures to illustrate God's work in salvation - a salvation wrought solely by HIS grace!

Ephesians 2:1 – 10 -- And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

John 6:35 – 40; 60 - 65 -- Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day… ...When many of his disciples heard it, they said, This is a hard saying; who can listen to it? But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe. (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.


The work of salvation is God's - we are justified by grace through faith, and that not of our doing. What a staggering thought that the Judge of the Universe would look upon the helpless estate of mankind and stretch out HIS right arm to save us!

With David, I exclaim - O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? [Psalm 8:1 - 4]

Because of the truth of sola gratia, I can proclaim, with Horatio Spafford:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


To close out this series on sola gratia, I would like to lay out the grand and glorious gospel; (the few folks who read this blog are familiar with the gospel, however I love saying it again!).

Adam, our federal head, fell, and his fall was devastating to mankind, separating Adam, and by extension all mankind, from God. There is none righteous – we are conceived in iniquity, we are inherently sinful.

God then chose a people to proclaim His glorious plan of salvation, Israel. And in His Grace, He gave them a ceremonial system of animal sacrifice so that, working through faith, they might be made right before God. While the blood of goats and bulls was only a temporary covering of sin, they foreshadowed the great and perfect Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice would once and for all save the redeemed.

Throughout all of time, God promised this deliverer, who would once again make God’s people right with Him. Then, two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ came to this Earth to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation. Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience, fulfilling all righteousness and then He took upon Himself our sin and nailed it to the cross. He imputed His life of righteousness to us, and took upon Himself our sins. Three days later, He was raised; the perfect, acceptable sacrifice, who, once for all time, removed the stain of sin from His people! He then ascended to Heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father and makes intercession for His people. Truly, with Paul we can say: 2nd Corinthians 4:6 - For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

And all those who, by God’s grace, not by their own actions or merits, come to Christ in faith, are redeemed.

The beauty of this gospel is that our salvation does not depend on our faithfulness in doing the right things; it is God who is the faithful one. Nor does it depend on our good works; it is through the finished work of Jesus Christ, nor does it depend upon our knowledge, but rather upon the Spirit’s work in our life. Truly it can be said that we are chosen by the Father, Redeemed by the Son, and born of the Spirit! Praise God for His amazing grace in saving a wretch like me!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sola Gratia - Part 2 - Our Condition

Why is sola gratia so disliked, or misunderstood by the majority of Christians today? Because it reduces our self-esteem to ashes, and everyone knows that we, (I speak specifically of those in the US, my cultural milieu) are the ‘can-do’ folks – we believe that we can do anything we put our mind to, including having a hand in our own salvation, and therefore, the doctrine of sola gratia is a stench in our nostrils. While this doctrine forces us to admit that we cannot do anything to save ourselves, most within modern evangelicalism have been taught, or believe that there MUST be something within us that merited God’s grace.

It is a mighty hard pill to swallow that it is God’s unmerited grace that brings us to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! Robert Schuller is so offended by this doctrine that he openly refutes it and speaks of its awful affect on mankind – but that is because Robert Schuller believes, at the end of the day, that the most important thing in all the world is our self-esteem.

Rather than spar with others who want to defend the pastors who preach against sola gratia, let's just examine what the Bible says about man’s condition. Let's just see if it says somewhere that we add to God’s grace, or that we somehow merit it.

I will be honest with you – there is not a dearth of Scripture that supports sola gratia – there are actually so many Scriptures that support it, that I pared the list down to reduce the size of this post.

So, let us look at some of the Scriptures that speak of man’s condition:

In Psalm 51:5 David speaks of his inherent wickedness: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

And then there is Paul’s statement in Romans 3:10 - 12 – in which he quotes from Psalm 14 and 53 -- as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.

Ephesians 2:1 – 3 -- And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

These, and many other Scriptures make it abundantly clear that it is sola gratia that we are saved. We place too little import on the effects of Adam’s fall. It was totally disastrous, sending mankind from a state of grace into a position of inherent sin. We are not sinners because we sin – we sin because we are inherently sinners.

Not only are we inherently sinners, but we are dead to God – we are dead in our trespasses and sins – we are not simply sick, needing a hand up from God, but dead without a hope of 'helping' ourselves! (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13). Jesus did not set a vial of medicine outside the tomb of Lazarus and tell him – “Lazarus, drag yourself out here and take this medicine that I provided!” No, rather, Jesus went to the tomb – HE directed the stone be rolled away, HE prayed, HE called Lazarus, and when Lazarus was regenerated by God, he then came out.

For crying out loud, Lazarus could not even unwrap himself! Now, with that in mind – why in the world do we somehow believe that we, who were dead in our trespasses and sins, stinking to high heaven, wrapped in the death clothes of sin, could drag our way to Jesus until we could grab on?

My friends we were as dead as a doornail in our sins, just as Lazarus was, and it was God’s grace that put life in the rotting corpse and regenerated it; providing faith upon which we walk out of the tomb towards our Savior’s voice who calls us! WOW! Why would ANYONE want to deny that?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Sola Gratia Part 1 - A Definition

As we have just recently examined sola fide, I thought we would now move to sola gratia, and discuss it briefly.

Before I finish this series, I hope to have examined all 5 of the sola’s:

1. sola fide
2. sola gratia
3. solus Christus
4. soli Deo Gloria
5. sola Scriptura

Unfortunately, in the evangelical community today there is much confusion, not to mention downright ignorance as regards the sola's. Due to this confusion we find that, (by and large), the church has lost her moorings, and is now adrift in a morass of semi-Pelagian, ( or fully Pelagian), man-centered teaching, which places the responsibility for salvation onto the believer.

We may be unaware of just how far we have sunk into this man-centered pseudo-gospel, but it only takes a quick look at the television, or a brief listen to the radio to hear the dissonance of man-centered preaching that masquerades as the gospel.

One well-known TV “preacher” presented such a muddled, confused explanation of salvation on 'Larry King Live' that viewers were left with, at best, an unclear understanding as to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as '...the way, the truth and the life'! This man's explanation of salvation denied the foundational truths of the faith: it can’t be through Christ alone (solus Christus) if all paths lead to heaven, and it can’t be by grace (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide), because, as this preacher has said on numerous occasions; we are to do what “God told us; and if we do our part, He will do His part”. So we partner with God in our salvation as well. And it cannot be to God’s glory alone (soli Deo Gloria), because we have played a part in our own salvation, and therefore we deserve some of the glory; and finally – almost everything that this preacher states clearly illustrates that he does not believe the Bible is the final authority for the believing community. Oh, and by the way, he is called “America’s Preacher”! How apropos that title is!

So, in this post I hope to look at God’s Amazing Grace with fresh eyes, and I pray that you will clearly see how amazing our salvation truly is. Without any further ado, let us look at the amazing reality of sola gratia!

What do we mean when we say that we are saved sola gratia; that it is by grace alone that we are saved? This means that we are saved by the unprovoked and undeserved acceptance of God. The words, unprovoked and undeserved are important here; many preach that we are saved by grace, but it is rarely alone. Our natural bent is to believe that there is a way for us to participate in our salvation.

Oh, we may require a bit of ‘divine assistance’, but we are able to get ourselves MOST of the way! As Michael Horton says, in his article on the sola’s, we mistakenly believe that “…perhaps God will have to show us the way, or even send a messenger to lead us back, but we can actually follow the plan and pull it off..." "We were born with a conscience that tells us that we are condemned by the Law, but our human reason concludes that the answer to that is to do better next time..."

We are looking for someone tell us how to save ourselves, this is why so many of the modern semi-pelagian preachers are so popular – they are telling man what he instinctively wants to hear; that we get by with a little help from God, to paraphrase Joe Cocker. But, in truth, God's Word tells us that even our best works are filthy rags; the Gospel tells us that it is something in God and his character (kindness, goodness, mercy, compassion) and not something in us (a good will, a decision, an act, an open heart, etc.) that saves us.

Interestingly, the phrase , "God helps those who help themselves" is the mantra of the modern church. Again quoting Michael Horton – “Over half the evangelicals surveyed thought this was a direct biblical quotation and 84% thought that it was a biblical idea, that percentage rising with church attendance at evangelical churches.” This is at best, a semi-Pelagian thought, at worst, a full-fledged Pelagian attitude. And Pelgianism, just so you know, was declared a heresy by the church!

In Pelagianism, Adam's sin is not imputed to us, nor is Christ's righteousness. Adam is a bad example, not the representative in whom we stand guilty. Similarly, Christ is a good example, not the representative in whom we stand righteous. To understand how far we have come from sola gratia, let me ask you -- how much of modern preaching is focused on following Christ (WWJD) rather than focusing on His person and work, or to put it another way -- not 'What WOULD Jesus do??', but What HAS Jesus DONE?' While it is important to follow Christ; I am not denying that, there is a greater focus; the person and work of Jesus Christ – His perfect obedience and righteousness, imputed to the sinner, and His work on the cross of propitiating the wrath of the Holy Judge of the Universe, and expiating our sins.

Pelagianism is so ubiquitious in the United States because of the work of Charles Finney, the revivalist of the 19th century. Most people think he was a wonderful Christian, but when we examine his writing and teachings, we find that he denied original sin, substitutionary atonement, justification through Christ, and the need for regeneration by the Holy Spirit. In short, he was Pelagian in thought and work. And sadly, this man was so influential within the US church that he virtually wrecked the mainline denominations and his work is still poisoning the well of evangelical thought today!

What I am hoping to accomplish in this series of posts, is to show how sola gratia completely destroys man’s reliance upon his own work in salvation, and forces one to fall fully on the grace of God alone! These posts will go against the grain of prevailing thought within the evangelical church, but in truth, is part of the faith once delivered to the saints for all time.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sola Fide Part 3 - The Result

In this final post on sola fide we find that the result of justification by faith alone is that:

1. We have no place for boasting. When we understand that it is solely the work of Jesus Christ that secures our justification, there is no room for us to be boastful. We cannot look down upon others because we have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ – we brought nothing to the table – therefore boasting is excluded.

2. More importantly we have come to a place of peace and reconciliation with God. Again quoting from Romans 5:9 – 11 -- Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

And again in 2nd Corinthians 5:17 – 21 -- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

And again in Colossians 1:19 – 23 -- For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Christian, you have been justified, declared righteous, through faith alone, in Christ alone, by the grace of God alone, to the Glory of God alone. Let us rejoice in the grace and mercy of our Father in Heaven – truly to Him belongs all the glory!