Monthly Archives: October 2017

Why should I care about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation?

I was asked to give a 5 minute answer to this question in a local church:

Why Should I Care About the Reformation’s 500th Anniversary?

Here is the gist of my answer:

500 years ago, an Augustinian university professor realized that there were big problems in the church. The people were ignorant about God and the Bible. They relied on experiences, works, and the church for salvation.

As he taught Romans to his theological students at the university of Wittenberg, Martin Luther realized that “the just shall live by faith.”

While teaching the Bible, he continued to develop the big ideas that would eventually challenge the theology and practices of the church. Then, on October 31st, 1517, Luther posted his 95 ideas on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

This door served as a kind of community bulletin board. By posting these ideas, he announced a challenge to an academic debate. What he actually did was light a match that would explode into a raging fire of revolution. Today we call this protest that brought reform the Protestant Reformation.

This movement spread across northern Europe and eventually around the world. Now, let’s be clear, the Reformation was not all peaches and cream. There were problems because there were humans involved. But six biblical truths were recaptured and remain important to you and me today.

Using the just published Greek New Testament of Desiderius Erasmus, the Europe wide movement to translate the Bible into common languages made God’s word available to all who would read. The people could see for themselves what the Bible taught instead of completely relying on the teachings of men in the church. Thus, the first big idea of the Reformation we consider is…

Scripture Alone – Sola Scriptura

Among Protestants, the inspired word of God would become the authority by which everything should be measured. From Scripture more biblical ideas were recaptured:

Glory to God Alone – Soli Deo Gloria

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,

for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1, ESV)

Christ Alone – Solus Christus

To the Jewish council, Peter proclaimed in Acts 4:11-12: “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (ESV)

Here is the Good News: Jesus + Nothing = Righteousness

Calvin

John Calvin holds forth in the square bearing his name in Budapest

Grace Alone – Sola Gratia

Isaiah proclaims the good news saying:

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;

my soul shall exult in my God,

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;

he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,”… (Isa. 61:10, ESV)

Faith Alone – Sola Fide

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Rom 12:3, ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9, ESV)

Royal Priesthood of All Believers

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet 2:9)

Today, like in 1517, there is widespread theological confusion of various kinds about works righteousness, errors about the Bible, about health, wealth and other teachings that falsely elevate man, his reason and his abilities.

These big ideas matter today to a weakening church in 2017 as they did back in 1517. We need to place our focus on God. Be careful church that you don’t spend more time in the writings of man than in the word of God!

To God ALONE be ALL the Glory

So, as members of the royal priesthood of God, saved by the grace of God, through faith alone, in Christ alone, trusting in Scripture alone, let us give God all the Glory with our lives. THIS is why the Protestant Reformation is important for us 500 years later!

Soli Deo Gloria.

Amen.

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Recaptured Truth V: The Priesthood of all Believers

This is part 5 in a series. Part ONE is HERE

500 years ago today an obscure Augustinian, a professor of theology, a teacher of the Bible posted 95 ideas , arguments or questions for academic debate to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. Martin Luther wanted to initiate a discussion about theology. Rather, the sparks from his hammer striking the nails that held his 95 Theses lit a fire of revolution in Europe. That revolution is known as the Protestant Reformation.

In this final post that notes the recaptured Biblical Truths resulting from the Reformation, we focus on the priesthood of all believers.

Hear the words of Peter:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1Peter 2, ESV)

In the previous few posts we’ve considered biblical truths that were recaptured by the reformers.

As priests, we are called to follow Jesus as His disciples. No one is better than another and we are all called to point one another to Him as fellow disciples who love God, neighbor, enemy and one another, in obedience to Jesus’ commands.

These basic reminders are why it is important to remember the impact of the Reformation.

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Recaptured Truth IV: Grace Alone and Faith Alone

[This is part 4 in a series. Part ONE is HERE]

Hear the words of Isaiah:

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (61:10, ESV)

Note: He has covered me

And Paul to the Ephesians:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (2:8-10, ESV)

And finally to the Romans:

Rom 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

As I reflect on these three texts, I am reminded of the glory of God alone as He has worked through Christ alone in His Grace so that I may be given that covering of righteousness. But this is not something I’ve earned, it is only through my faith in God.

(This is why it’s been said we should pray for and teach children to trust God before we worry about them loving God.)

The finished work of Christ is a gift from God to a needy humanity. When Jesus proclaimed “It is finished.” He was exclaiming that the debt man owed was paid.


No more animal sacrifices needed. The price was paid for me by Him. The tab was covered! It’s done! That’s grace!

Grace and Faith alone recognize that only God is able to do the work. Jesus has completed the work for us. Now, as Paul said:

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Rom. 12:3, ESV)

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Recaptured Truth III: Christ Alone

[This is part 3 in a series. Part ONE is HERE]

As I walked up the street in Zagreb on an errand recently, I saw this beautiful monument to the crucifiction of Jesus. It was on the street side of a Roman Catholic Church.

On my way back from my errand an elderly man stood in front of the statue praying.

At the time of the Reformation there was a dominant teaching that salvation comes through the church and that you could earn merit with God or even buy (from the church) the release from punishment for others.

The recaptured Biblical truth that the Reformation emphasized was that it is through Christ alone that we are saved from the wrath of God.

Jesus himself stated it clearly:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

It is Christ alone who saves. Not the Church, not my works…

Jesus + NOTHING = righteousness

Thanks be to God for the work of the Son!

Solus Christus

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Recaptured Truths of the Reformation II: Sola Scriptura

This is part 2 in a series. Part ONE is HERE

Back in April, I was honored to preach in the pulpit and teach in the ministry classroom at Trinity Church and Ukrainian Theological Seminary.

As I preached, Dr. Luther (in the poster above) was reminding me. I was urging us all to take the Scripture seriously as he did. Don’t remain weak or dull, but to be strong in the Lord and faithful students of His word. One of the hallmarks of the reformation was “by Scripture alone.”

Sola Scriptura!!!
Read it, study it, grow in discernment as you sharpen your mind and soften your heart with it!
Sola Scriptura does not mean we shun biblical theology or Christian history. It does mean that Scripture is the straight edge by which we see the bent-ness of man’s thoughts.

The Enlightenment lifted man’s opinion of himself to the point at which he decided he could judge the Bible. The pre-Reformation church had lifted itself to be God’s voice along with the Bible. We love to lift ourselves up.

When any man lifts his opinions to be the equal of Scripture, stop listening.

Find your truth in the Bible, use faithful writings about it to help you, but avoid those who bring you “something new.”

In this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, follow the reformers back to the Bible and biblical truths.

Ask yourself: who am I spending more time in, the words of man? Or the word of God?

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Lessons from Truths Recaptured in the Reformation I: Glory to God Alone

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭19:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This shot of the western edge of the Point that forms the western tip of Mossel Bay show the beauty of creation that gives glory to God.

This year has been one of conferences, celebrations and new books to commentate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the reformation this coming Tuesday, October 31.

I have read and thought much about the truths recaptured by the reformers. I’ve had my fair share of the conference talks and sermons during my travels this year. 

In the next few posts I hope to remind us of these recaptured truths. As I have taught in churches, conferences and classrooms, I consider the foundation truth to be Glory to God Alone! Soli Deo Gloria

This understanding is incredibly important because we need to recognize God’s greatness first and foremost. He is our rock.

As I recently stood out on the rock of the western point of Mossel Bay in South Africa, the safety of the stability of the rock became evident. The wind and waves in this video could represent the struggles of life. But on the rock there is safety.


Scripture refers to God as our rock,  our refuge, our deliverer. In Deuteronomy, the people are told to remember how God delivered them from Egypt. Psalm 114 does just that. The beginning of Psalm 115 proclaims

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭115:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Man loves to take credit for… well… everything. Seascapes are reminders of the greatness of God.


They prevent man from taking credit even in His own mind…

Not to us oh LORD…

As Paul said to the Romans, we must not think to highly of ourselves. Who could take credit for this?


Or this?


Soli Deo Gloria!

Indeed, my belief in such a sovereign God, who loves me, gives me great peace.

Glory to God Alone!

Let us rest in Him who is our rock.
http://bible.com/59/psa.115.1.esv

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“Yet we must take care against being so caught up with being ‘right’ that we lose focus on what it means to be loving.”

This is an important quote from 


Especially considering the fact that Jesus commands are about love: God, neighbor, enemy, and one another.

I’m looking forward to a discussion with some of my fellow disciples about how this book is helpful and fosters our spiritual development.

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