October 31st: Not Just Halloween

            Most of us associate this day with Halloween.  But did you know that October 31st is also a very significant day in the life of the Protestant church?  It is Reformation Day.  It was on this day in 1517 that Martin Luther, a catholic priest nailed his Ninety-Five Theses (stated objections) to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.  This began what is known in history as the Protestant Reformation.  For Luther personally, it began a long period of conflict with the Roman Catholic Church.  Though men before him expressed concerns with the church, the reformation movement crystallized with Luther. The word reformation means “to form again or to revive” and in Luther’s eyes what needed reviving was the supremacy of the gospel; a right theology in which to worship, a theology centered on God.  Reformation theology is built on what are called the five Solas, a Latin word meaning “alone”.  They are as follows: 

  • Sola Scriptura – the church looks to the Bible alone as its ultimate authority (2 Timothy 3:16) 
  • Sola Gratia – salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) 
  • Sola Fide – salvation comes through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 1:17) 
  • Solus Christus – salvation comes in Christ alone (1 Timothy 2:5) 
  • Soli Deo Gloria – life is to be lived to the glory of God alone            (1 Corinthians 10:31) 

            We would do well to see as clearly as Luther saw in his time because the supremacy of the true gospel needs reviving today as well.  Appreciating and embracing the doctrines of the Reformation helps us to that end because they force our return to a right theology, a theology centered exactly where it belongs; at the cross of Christ.  “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be glory forever.  Amen.” (Romans 11:36).

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Abortion: Getting The Christian Response Right

             As it has been for a long time, abortion remains a political hot potato.  A few months ago, it was Senate candidate Todd Akin who was criticized for comments he made about abortion.  More recently, Richard Mourdock, the Republican Senate candidate from Indiana was criticized for comments he made concerning his views related to the same issue.  Below is a link to an article written by Albert Mohler in which he expresses how those who oppose Mourdock and the pro-life agenda have misused his words solely for political gain.  Unfortunately, this kind of thing has become way too common in our politics.  More importantly, in this article, Mohler takes the occasion to express the appropriate Christian view concerning abortion and the careful manner in which this view should be expressed.  A must read!  

http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/10/26/the-mourdock-moment-life-death-and-lies-on-the-campaign-trail/?utm_source=Albert+Mohler&utm_campaign=26315e845e-Albert_Mohler_Email_August_6_20128_6_2012&utm_medium=email

Grace And Sin

“Those who argue that grace allows a buffer for sin, that their sin will ultimately glorify God anyway, are revealing they are not under grace!  They are not Christians, no matter how much they argue otherwise.”   – R. Kent Hughes –

            If the quote above stings a bit, perhaps it should.  As believers in Jesus Christ, sin will be an ever present enemy.  We will battle it as long as we live.  If that wasn’t the case, Paul would not have implored the Christians to whom he was writing in Rome to, “let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions” (Romans 6:12).  God’s Word teaches that as believers, sin dwells within us.  But equally so, it teaches that grace properly understood doesn’t need sin in order for God to be glorified.  So what do I mean?  Many in Paul’s day mistook his message to mean that sin brought glory to God because it allowed His grace to be magnified.  They took it as if the ethical requirements of God’s law were unimportant.  This is referred to as antinomianism; a term used to deny that what God’s law teaches in Scripture should control the life of the believer.  The truth is they just wanted to sin.  Paul taught that the law was holy, righteous and good, but impossible to keep.  Its purpose was to reveal sin and ultimately point people to Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the law on our behalf.  Furthermore, Paul taught that to continue a sinful pattern of life was contrary to a believer’s new identity in Christ, “How can we who died to sin still live in it”? (Romans 6:2).    

            Grace properly understood hates sin, and as children of God we hate sin because we realize it’s that pattern in which we lived that God loved us enough to save us out of, “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  Though we were undeserving, God gave His Son for our sin in order to reconcile us to Himself.  Are we to show our appreciation for Christ’s work by thinking God expects no change?  Certainly not!  But more than that, true change; change which comes from the heart, can’t help but live differently because we are different.  We are a new creation, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 2:17).  

            To be Christian is more than just being a moral person, though morality is characteristic of Christians.  To be Christian comes only through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  It results in a change that is based on and motivated by your love for Christ.  Though it’s His righteousness you wear, you strive to live rightly out of a desire to please Him.  We live in a world way too tolerant of sin.  Yes, we understand its reality.  We understand that Christians sin greatly, but the pattern of sin that once was so gripping has been broken.  God will not let Christians sin as they once did.  Because of their union with Christ and the Holy Spirit’s work bringing them under conviction of sin, they can’t.  But you ask, “What if they can”?  Though perhaps unpopular and both hard to say and hear, no matter their profession, if they can, they’re not saved. 

            Paul’s teaching was never meant for us to constantly doubt our salvation.  It was quite the opposite.  But he didn’t want us to have a false assurance of salvation either, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?  Unless you fail to meet the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5).   Paul was very direct in his teaching.  So direct was he that it ultimately cost him his life.  Today, many fear the consequences of calling sin what it is because of what it may cost them.  When the pattern of a person’s life is contrary to God’s will, our first thought might be, “Who am I to judge”?  If Matthew 7:1 comes to mind, “Judge not, that you be not judged”, I would ask you to consider it in context.  It’s about undue harshness and a judgmental attitude toward a person.  It’s not our role to pronounce another guilty before God, but that doesn’t mean we forgo appropriate discernment of sin.  We’re sometimes so busy not “judging” that we fail to the properly teach the true meaning of grace.  Yes, we know that grace abounds more than sin, in fact grace overwhelms it.  But grace and those who’ve received it live with a desire to please our Savior.   Do you?  It makes all the difference.

Grace In An Unlikely Place (3)

“John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38) 

            How many times have you wanted to be part of the “in” group?  You know, the group that just does it better than anyone else, seemingly having it all together.  Maybe you’re in that group.  It can be related to anything; business, school, athletics, etc.  It even occurs within the church.  Jesus’ disciples were a pretty exclusive group.  Disciple means “learner” and to have learned personally from Jesus Christ, the incarnate God is in fact unique.  Scripture also refers to the twelve disciples as apostles, which means “messengers” or “sent ones”.  These men certainly carried great authority in the life of the church.  In fact, in some cases they are presented as men who had some extra spiritual quality about them.  But to understand the Biblical account is to understand that these men were human in every way, susceptible to all the human pitfalls that you and I are.  

             “John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us” On this occasion, the Apostle John’s pride and arrogance was on full display, His words both intolerant and unloving.  This was not the first time pride had won the moment in his life (Matthew 20:20-24; Luke 9:51-56).  It seems pride was an early companion of John’s and all the disciples really, as in many ways, they sought their own glory.  On this particular occasion, upon hearing John’s words recorded in Mark 9:38, Jesus, sensing his pride pointed out that anyone who ministers in His name should be gratefully acknowledged (Mark 9:39). 

             There would be many fitting titles for this devotion but I chose Grace In An Unlikely Place because it’s real easy to read right over this passage and miss the message.  It is God’s graciousness by which He shows us examples of the things we’re capable of.  Without diminishing the privilege of being His disciple, Jesus encouraged John’s support of others who also ministered in His name.  As you and I minister, we cannot think it impossible to develop an elitist attitude toward others who do the same.  John showed us that.  Just because someone ministers apart from us doesn’t lessen its eternal value.  Remember, the glory is not ours.  It belongs to God.  The apostle John obviously aged well.  He was always committed to truth, but over time, his once elitist and narrow-mindedness gave way to God’s gracious work in his life.  Truth and love were now more properly balanced.  Are they with you?  We know John as the apostle of love, but ultimately it was the love of Christ that made all the difference, not just for him, but for each of us as well.  Now that’s what I call grace!    

Prayer

Lord, as humans, we are so tempted by pride.  Christian ministry is not exempt from that temptation.  Lord, thank you for giving us your Word.  Your words never come to us by accident as there is always an intended purpose.  It is grace when you warn us about the effects of pride, even in Christian ministry.  Often your lessons are so subtle we sometimes miss them.  Keep me sensitive to your Word and the Spirit’s work in my own life that I would be mindful of the damaging effects of spiritual pride.  Help me to properly balance truth and love each day.